CHAMPCAR/CART: Rice, Martinez telconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Hello to Buddy. This is kind of a question for both you and David, but I'll pose it this way: You and I talked right after the announcement that you were going to fill the seat for A.J. Allmendinger and we talked about...

Continued from part 1

Q: Hello to Buddy. This is kind of a question for both you and David, but I'll pose it this way: You and I talked right after the announcement that you were going to fill the seat for A.J. Allmendinger and we talked about the audition factor then. Now we have two drivers in a sense auditioning for one seat. Does that have the two of you look at it? You can answer it first, and then David, please follow.

BUDDY RICE: I think obviously the team and Jerry Forsythe and stuff, they have obviously an agenda that they're looking at and things that they're willing to pursue. So we'll have to see how that plays out.

And it's the same thing I said before, every time you get in a seat, it's always an audition. You never know what's going to happen. It's no different than right now I'm not finishing off my third year at Rahal because of certain situations and stuff.

I think every time you get in a seat, it's somewhat an audition, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens after Mexico.

DAVID MARTINEZ: I totally agree with Buddy.

Q: Buddy, are you focusing on Champ Car for next season?

BUDDY RICE: At the end of the day I'm going to put myself in a position to drive a competitive car, and that's what my whole goal is right now and I've been given that opportunity. We'll see where that goes from here. Still, at the end of the day we'll have to see what happens after Mexico. But I'm not worried about the car counts. That's not for me to worry about. There's enough other things to take care of.

Q: Also to follow up, are there any other backup plans, maybe Grand American or something like that or are you sticking to the track, staying in open wheels for next season?

BUDDY RICE: Definitely I'm working on the open wheel thing, but it's not to say I'm working on anything else because at the end of the day I'll be driving somewhere. We're just going to have to wait and see.

I mean, there's always opportunities and there's people calling. There's a lot of things happening all the time, and this is I guess why they call it silly season and things are happening and moving around. We'll see. I'm focused on doing the best job I can this week for Forsythe in Mexico, and we'll see what Jerry and the team and what they want to do for the future.

Q: Buddy Rice, let's start with you. You're going to be working with Michael Cannon, whom everybody knows had an easy time getting adjusted to working with A. J. Allmendinger. How have you two guys gotten along based on your first test together?

BUDDY RICE: I believe quite well. Obviously it's going to take a little bit. You're not going to have everything just perfect in the first one day of testing or anything after that. But these guys are very professional and they're very well organized, so I think that's also making the transition easier. So I think that once you get down there and get into the heat of the battle, we'll see how it all goes.

Obviously it's going to take a little bit longer than also one race weekend to also understand exactly what I'm looking for or how to explain it to where he understands it. That's part of having a relationship and working with your engineer for years. That's something I've never really had. I've switched engineers every single year since 2000.

We'll see what happens. I'm good at adapting and trying to fit in. These guys have got a fast car, there's no question about it. Allmendinger did a great job winning five of eight rounds that he was in there. So definitely -- there's a lot there and the team is very good, so I think that we should be in a pretty good position.

Q: You are the third face they've had in this particular car this year. How daunting is that?

BUDDY RICE: That really doesn't faze me, like I said. I've been around racing and around this thing for long enough, I know what I need to do and I just need to show up and get on with it.

Q: My question is for David Martinez. David, this will be your debut in Champ Car. Are you more relaxed that it's going to be in your hometown or does that add more pressure?

DAVID MARTINEZ: Well, I think it's a little bit of both. I mean, definitely just coming here to a huge event with one of the best teams in Champ Car makes it easier. But at the same time, people want to see the Mexican driver up front.

I think it helps, and it's also a little bit of pressure, but I think in the end, it's a good type of pressure that's going to keep me pushing the whole weekend, and hopefully I can give them a good show and a good result.

Q: My question is for David. David, how many different cars in different places, different times have you raced on the Mexico City race track?

DAVID MARTINEZ: The first time I raced there was around 1997, I think. It was a Formula 2 car with 200 horsepower. Then I raced Formula 3000, and my last race was a Formula 3 car, which I won. So I have had some good experience actually on this track, and I'm hoping that's going to help.

Q: David, I'd like to know coming in after your first test, how do you feel -- what was the most difficult part about getting accustomed to the Champ Car?

DAVID MARTINEZ: Well, my first concern getting in the car was the physical aspect, although I've been preparing myself pretty strongly these last years. I drove the Atlantic at the beginning of this year, and it was a pretty physical track, so that was my main concern.

At the end of the day, I felt pretty good. I got to do over 200 miles, and I was a little bit sore, but nothing huge. I gained a lot of confidence just getting to know the people and running some long stints, getting to know what new tires do and what loading the car with fuel, how it changes with the long runs.

I mean, I gained a lot of confidence, and I feel pretty comfortable coming into Mexico knowing that I could run competitive times in Houston on my first day, so I'm hoping that knowing this track and knowing the team is going to make things a lot easier this time.

Q: Buddy, my question is what makes you take the decision to change from IRL to Champ Car, considering that you were once a winner in the Indy 500? What made you take that decision?

BUDDY RICE: Well, part of it is I don't have a ride right now in the IRL. Also, it's a long off season and I thought that it was important for me to keep driving.

When you get an opportunity like this to drive a competitive car, I don't think you should pass it up at any time. If there was some sports car races and other things going on, I'd definitely be trying to drive that and I'll be running at the 24 Hours at Daytona in January, as well.

Like I said, I guess I've been saying, it's a little repetitive, but I need to be in a very competitive open-wheel car, and that's what I want to do, and this is an opportunity to do that, and with the opportunity of driving here in the future.

Q: Did you take a step ahead or do you think you went backwards with this decision?

BUDDY RICE: I think if you want to step back and look at things, I think you can look at both series and they both have pros and cons, and at the end of the day, what it comes down to, the best thing would be is if the two series were together and they're not. They're somehow vying for the same demographic to some degree. Obviously the all oval series, other than being in Japan, is an all American series, and Champ Car is a little bit more of a worldwide series.

I think that they both have strengths, and they're both playing off of their strengths, and I don't think it's necessarily a step up or a step back. I think it's a side step right now.

At the end of the day, I want to be driving an open-wheel car, and if I have an opportunity to drive a car this competitive for the future or anything like that, I'm going to definitely take a long, hard look at it and have to decide from there.

I want to be in a very competitive car and I want to go racing, and that's my goal.

Q: Just a quick follow-up for Buddy. About your contract with Rahal, he told you in July you said. Was there an option you didn't pick up for the third year, or were you actually under contract? And how does that affect any future contracts you might sign for '07?

BUDDY RICE: It definitely was not an option, it was part of a three-year deal. How it will affect my future contracts, it won't affect it at all.

I understand Bob's position, and at the end of the day, it was a business decision that he had to make. There's no hard feelings or anything like that.

Those guys over there are a good group of guys, just the way the situation is. That's just the way it goes.

Q: So basically are you getting paid for the final year, or is that just kind of --

BUDDY RICE: No. The thing is that everybody's contract is so different, and obviously we don't have a union so nobody knows exactly what everybody is doing because everybody does their own thing, but no, I will not be being paid on my third year.

ERIC MAUK: We will bring today's media teleconference to an end. I'd like to thank Buddy Rice and David Martinez, and best of luck this weekend as we head down to Mexico City.

-credit: ccws

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Series IndyCar
Drivers A.J. Allmendinger , Buddy Rice , David Martinez