2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Team Rahal: Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice, Scott Roembke, Roger Yasukawa Part 1 of 2 MIKE KING: Welcome for our third team session this morning by Team Rahal. Scott Roembke,...
2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Team Rahal: Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice, Scott Roembke, Roger Yasukawa
Part 1 of 2
MIKE KING: Welcome for our third team session this morning by Team Rahal. Scott Roembke, who is the chief operating officer for the team, he will be the official spokesman for the team, obviously. Scott is an Indianapolis native, and Scott, it's good to see you again. Kenny Brack, 1999 Indianapolis 500 champion, 1998 IndyCar(R) Series champion. Great to have him back and looking -- if you had seen him at Phoenix, it's amazing, it's truly amazing. Good to see you, Kenny, that's the bottom line. Buddy Rice, who is driving the Pioneer Argent Mortgage No. 15 for Team Rahal this year, currently in a substitute role until Kenny returns, and we wait to hear more about Buddy's future with the team. Roger Yasukawa, who will be the third member of the team running both at Motegi, coming up in April, and here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a member of Team Rahal. Roger was the runner-up in the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award standings. Let's start with you first, Scott, if you could talk a bit about the announcement that was made last week by Bobby at Sebring regarding the two-car team in the IndyCar Series and the fact that this will be a three-car team come the month of May.
SCOTT ROEMBKE: Yeah, certainly first off, thank you for having us over today. I think Bobby and the press has said it pretty well. It was a pretty big decision in the history of Team Rahal to put all of our focus into the IRL. But as we sat and looked at the decision and the status of open-wheel racing right now, it was a -- it was a tough decision, it wasn't an easy one to make. Certainly last year fielding cars in both of the premier series split our resources and our people, and having a one-car team certainly is a detriment. So I think our main goal behind us is to have two strong cars in the IRL and support the IRL in doing that. You know, it also certainly opens up the options for us as Kenny assesses his comeback schedule. What we didn't want to do was get in a situation where Buddy was well along in the championship, or something like that, and so it gives us a lot of options as we move forward. We're pleased to be here.
KING: Let's go to Buddy next because Buddy has started the two IndyCar Series events this year and captured his first career IndyCar Series pole at Homestead. Buddy, we've talked about this, the fact that you've settled in pretty quickly with this team. You've not yet been announced as one of the drivers that will assume one of the full-time roles. But tell us a little bit, if you can, about Team Rahal, your role and where you think your future is heading with this team.
BUDDY RICE: Well, I think for the opportunity that has been given to me from the Team Rahal standpoint, what they've given me is unbelievable to finally come to work with a big team and a properly-run team has just been huge, and that's how we started off the season. It is a fill-in role right now until Kenny is ready, as you guys can see, from his rehabilitation, it's going to be hopefully soon here. It will be excellent. It was nice to have him at Phoenix; it was a big help. We'll just have to wait to see what my future is at Team Rahal. I'm definitely happy to be here. I know what my job is, is to make sure that the No. 15 Pioneer Argent car is up front. We try to win races and do the best job we can right now. I think with the program that we've got going, and the Honda and G Force chassis has been an excellent combination. It's always taken just a little bit for us to get a handle on it, but I think we have a solid package right now, and it's going to be a good package to come and for when Kenny comes back and also having Roger on board. All the information we can get right now is going to be a huge help in developing this combination for Team Rahal and for the future. I'm very happy to be a part of Team Rahal and with this group sitting up here.
KING: Roger, your deal for the event at Motegi and here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was announced a few weeks back. If you could talk about your preparations for the upcoming event next month and the month of May.
ROGER YASUKAWA: Yes, certainly. I think we'll start testing on March 30th: We'll get a day of testing at Phoenix, and then we'll go straight to Motegi. Fortunately, I have Buddy already started the season, and the car is running good. It's going to be my first time in a G Force car, and just by doing the seat-fitting, I guess the view looks a little bit different from Dallara. But I think a day of testing would sort that out. And I'm looking forward to going to Motegi, first of all. It's a very big event for Honda and also for myself. My parents are Japanese, and I grew up there, too. So that's going to be a pretty big event. Then coming to the Indy 500, this is going to be my second year in it, and I guess winning the Indy 500 has always been my goal in racing. So, you know, I think I get another chance this year. Last year was a lot of learning. I think being here for the whole month of May you get a lot of track time, but one thing that I learned is things change a lot here during the month, and you have to stay on top of everything. So every day seemed new to me, and this year I think I know what to expect, which is good, and also during the race. I really want to thank Sammy, my sponsor, and Honda and Team Rahal for this opportunity. Hopefully I can turn this into something more after the Indy 500.
KING: Kenny, it's been an odyssey for you since the events that transpired at the season finish, naturally, at Texas, everything from your rehab to additional surgeries to the birth of your daughter, just a little bit about getting to you this point and where you stand right now, I guess your hopes for the month of May.
Well, thank you. It's been certainly an exciting offseason, nearly as exciting as the racing season, actually. But everything is coming along good. You know, it's been a quick recovery, I have to say, because New Year's I couldn't be up more than 20 minutes at a time and sat in a wheelchair. Now I'm back to normal. Maybe not as normal as to get in a race car, but at least, you know, being functional in the everyday life. So it's been going quick. I just don't know, since I haven't been in this position before, how quick the recovery is going to continue. So I'm doing my best every day to start the next day as good as possible, I guess, is my view on this right now.
KING: I know everyone has a lot of questions.
Q: Scott, as a guy who grew up in the city of Indianapolis, I guess you had a rather -- you wore the bus service out coming over from the east side over here as a kid. If you could just talk a little bit about that, your history here when you were a kid, how often after school you took the bus system over here and all that.
ROEMBKE: I grew up on the east side, and I love the Indianapolis 500, always have. Obviously, me and you have had too many beers somewhere someplace. (Laughter) You know, I used to get out of school, Thomas Carr Howe, and take the bus downtown and transfer in front of G.C. Murphy's and get dumped off at Rosner's Drugstore and spend two bucks, come in, and then had to hurry back to Rosner's by 6:15 or I'd never make it home. That was my life. And my family, we've always come out for the qualification days and the race, and I just grew up, this is what I always wanted to do, and it's always been a part of my life. You know, to think that I could make my living, you know, doing something like this is something I thank myself for every day.
Q: How many days during the month would you --
ROEMBKE: Oh, I tried to get out here, I mean, every weekend day and probably three or four days during the week. I mean, I spent a lot of two dollars at the gate.
KING: Questions? Holy cow.
Q: I notice looking through the packet, I don't see Miller listed anywhere. Are they now completely out as a sponsor at Rahal?
ROEMBKE: For the time being they are.
KING: Let's see your hands. I know we had some folks over here.
Q: Kenny, I know you play the guitar. Have you been practicing a lot since you've been rehabbing?
BRACK: Yeah, that's been a good therapy for me. I have guitar playing as a hobby, and I was just saying to somebody, this is lucky that I have guitar playing as a hobby and not golf because golf wouldn't have been appropriate in my state. So yeah, it's been fun. It's been going good.
Q: Kenny, can you give us some more detailed assessment of your physical condition presently?
BRACK: Like what?
Q: Well, organ by organ -- well, not really. (Laughter)
BRACK: Well, you know --
Q: Say limb by limb.
BRACK: My new name is now Kenny the Rod Brack. Is that good enough? (Laughter)
KING: Can we use that on air? (Laughter) Scott says let's not go there. See, you're basically just wanting an assessment of his overall physical health.
BRACK: Well, I think that everything's going really well. The thing that I work on a lot is my right ankle. That was crushed in the accident, and it takes a long time for that to heal properly. I mean, I'm walking around and everything, and some days the ankle feels really good, and some days it doesn't. So it's at a stage right now where it just needs to -- I just need to keep working at it. And by that -- because it's sore and everything, that affects the whole right leg, basically. I'm sure I can hold the throttle down, but it's not at this point comfortable. And for a race car comeback, you have to feel strong, you have to feel confident that no matter what happens, I can do this, I can take maybe a hit if it comes to that or whatever. And if you don't feel that confidence, I don't think that you are able to do your job a hundred percent. But in two-and-a-half months, it's gone extremely well. I've been rehabbing five days a week, Monday through Friday, three to four hours a day. It makes a difference, surely. So let's see what happens here in the next few weeks.
KING: Kenny, you spent the entire weekend at the track at Phoenix. Was there much time in terms of recouping on Monday? Did you feel just fine when you got up or does it take a little extra time to recharge the batteries?
BRACK: I think that was kind of a good first test basically because that involved a lot of traveling. I went through airport security, which is not, you know, it's -- I didn't think it was any point to take my shoes off and stuff like that because I was going to have to go through the extra security anyway. But it actually worked for me coming back from Phoenix because there was a huge line, probably 45 minutes or an hour wait, and I got ahold of an airport security guy there and showed him my scars and a little of that and he escorted me straight through. So it can work for you, too. It was well worth it. (Laughter)
KING: That's a tough way to get through security a little faster, yeah.
BRACK: Well, anyway, during the weekend I walked a lot, of course, and it was really the first time that I was in a normal situation, and I felt good about it. Yeah, Sunday night I was a little sore, but traveling back Monday, you know, I think I felt the best I've felt in my ankles were yesterday. I think it needs to -- you have pain, but you just have to work through it and, you know, yes, put load on them. It's going well. So I thought it went very well for me. Obviously, I didn't have to drive, Buddy did that, so that was obviously good. But, no, it was fun, it was fun to be back in the paddock and see all the friends and everything, really was fun.
Q: Kenny, a non-participant such as myself, in asking or directing a question at you, we generally lay out our fear levels coming back from an accident. Your equation now is a new child in your life. When you get away from these questions, where was your fear level about continuing to race?
BRACK: Well, I think that if you ask my wife, I never take any -- you know, I don't pay any consideration to my family, you know. (Laughter) Actually, I think that it's not -- it hasn't changed my love for the racing. I think that every driver, you might look nuts out there on the track, but I think all drivers are fairly intelligent and, you know, think through the sport and the risks and whatever you have there and so do I. I mean, I've always known that there are risks involved in racing. It is kind of self-explanatory if you drive 220 miles an hour around a track with no run-off areas. But, also, I know that the risks are fairly low. You can get hurt, and I did get hurt, and that's obviously something every driver hopes is not going to happen. It does happen sometimes. But if you look at the amount of incidents that happens during a season, the percentages of you getting hurt is really very low. My view hasn't changed on that, but I do want to get back into excellent physical shape before I put myself -- expose myself to that, because I know that if you're not fit, then things can go wrong. But if you're fit, you have a good chance of doing well even if the accident is big. But like I say, most accidents are quite fairly small. So my outlook on that hasn't really changed. What my -- the program here is to get back to a fitness level that's acceptable, basically.
Q: Kenny, I think you answered most of what my question was. The physical problems aside, are you mentally ready to get back in a race car at this point or do you need a little time there as well?
BRACK: Depends who you ask. (Laughter)
ROEMBKE: I think mentally you've always been challenged. (Laughter)
BRACK: I think that I never felt any fear or any doubt in my mind about the racing and the speeds and stuff like that. But I do realize that I have to get back into good shape. I talked a little earlier, that's the main thing. If I can do that, then I think mentally it will be the same as before.