IRL: Buddy Rice IMS Media Tour press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 KING: This, by the way, will be the first repeat track where the IndyCar Series rules have reflected the 3-liter engine change. It started here last year. And just to give you an idea of what Buddy's talking about, last...

Continued from part 1

KING: This, by the way, will be the first repeat track where the IndyCar Series rules have reflected the 3-liter engine change. It started here last year. And just to give you an idea of what Buddy's talking about, last year at Phoenix we ran the 3.5-liter engine, we went there for the first time with the 3-liter engine and what was it, Buddy, pole speed was like 2 miles an hour faster with the 3-liter than it was with the 3.5 a year ago, so it could be dramatically quicker this year.

RICE: Yeah, definitely. I think the Honda is going to be better. Both the two chassis manufacturers have made their cars better. If the track is as smooth as we think it will be, we'll be able to run the cars lower and allow us to trim out that much more because it will make the underwing that much more effective.

KING: Questions?

Q: You're a part of a race team that's having increasing success. I was wondering how that dynamic kind of works out. Do you guys share everything amongst each other before the race and then go out and compete? Or do you withhold a few things that you know to stay competitive inside the team?

KING: The question is: You're part of a team, Rahal Letterman Racing, that has seen increasing success. You guys have expanded to a three car full-time operation this year. The question is, do you guys share everything with each other? Just talk a little bit about the operation of the team and how the three of you interact.

RICE: I think basically from what Vitor and I did last year, sharing everything, if you hold anything back, it defeats having a multi-car team. If you're holding something back from your teammate, you're holding the whole team back, and that's not appropriate, not only for yourself, but for the team and the sponsors. Because the whole objective is to keep all the cars up front as much as possible. Vitor and I did it quite successfully last year, it took a little bit for us to sort out the different driving styles that we have because each of us like the cars a certain way. With brining Danica on board is another variable that we've had to throw in, but at the same time, bringing her in as a third driver is now more information. With the lack of testing that we have, the more cars you have out there, the more data you're receiving and the faster your technology and the more you can advance your program. That's why you're seeing all the big teams constantly advancing themselves in the car count. I think that you have to give everything and completely share fullheartedly because otherwise you're hurting the whole program, and it's not being a team player. Once you're out on the track, there's times that you're obviously going to be quite competitive against each other and other times you're not. A perfect example was Kansas for me and Vitor, we had the exact same cars, we ran side by side I think for 15 laps and it stuck that way. That's just the way it is. There's different times and different positions you'll have to help your teammate out. If it gets late in the year and Vitor is chasing the championship and I'm not and he's running behind me, I'm going to need to help him out any way I can. That's just the way it's going to be; and that's part of running a multi-car team. If you have other people with you and you're chasing the championship, they can take very valuable point away from other guys that are chasing the points championship with you. So that's another benefit to having multiple-car teams.

KING: By the way, he's not kidding about that Kansas race. He wore us out up in the broadcast booth trying to keep up with those two guys. They wound up, Buddy wound up beating Vitor by 51 10,000ths of a second in that race. I believe it was the second closest finish in IndyCar Series history. What was it, about 13 inches? Something like that. So it was an amazing race. Questions for Buddy Rice?

Q: When you think about the month of May coming up, what are you going to do differently? When you think back about last year, what do you have to do differently to repeat coming into --

KING: With the month of May coming up, what do you do differently to come in and repeat the success you had last season?

RICE: I don't think as a group we plan on doing much of anything different. We were here with a three-car team last year. The biggest thing you need to make sure you do, is now because the month is shortened a little bit, is make sure you get quality laps. We focused on that very hard last year, and it seemed to pay off for us. Granted we weren't at the top of the time sheets every day in practice going for the big PR numbers, but when it came down to us putting the lap in or put the number up, we were able to do it. That's what's very crucial, making sure you get quality, not so much quantity. You have to be selective and pay close attention to the weather here. This track is so sensitive to the weather; and now with the surface change, we're going to have to stay on top of it just that much more so we can gather that much more data to make sure the car is as best we can get it for the race.

Q: Describe what a quality lap is.

KING: Describe, if you could, a quality lap here at the Speedway.

RICE: When you're making changes, you have to run the lap the same. Let's say whether you're making aero changes or mechanical changes, if you ran a lap one way, you've got to go back out there and the closer you can do it together at the same temperature and time will be very crucial to that. So you have to make sure you make your adjustments and changes at the right time and don't go out there and just waste time to be pounding around because you only have so many tires, as well.

KING: Buddy, if you could explain, too, we hear drivers talk a lot about aero grip and mechanical grip. If you could, just explain the differences. I know they're probably subtle, but when we hear a driver say that, what are you talking about specifically?

RICE: Well, they have to kind of work together, really. You lose a lot more mechanical grip in traffic but there's certain aero bits on the car that can kind of help in traffic even though it's in dirty air. So you need a lot of mechanical grip to run in traffic for race trim. That's where all that comes from. When we start trimming the air out and you start using mechanical grip, but you have to keep the aero balance exactly in the number or the sweet spot the car is looking for. Same thing can be said in race trim, but because we run so tight and there's so many cars and the way the track's formed is there's this big swirl effect on all the ovals we have, we have to make sure we keep on top of our proper aero number we're looking for. That's the balance of the front percentage to the rear percentage, and that's crucial on these cars. It's more so in the race trim than it would be in qualifying.

KING: So the mechanical would be the springs, the suspension --

RICE: Springs, shock, toe.

KING: As opposed to the aero, which would be the bits on the car that makes it sleeker.

Q: Buddy, can you update us on Kenny Brack?

KING: An update on Kenny Brack. Last time I saw him he was looking pretty good.

RICE: He's looking good, he's still a smart aleck because he keeps calling me and harassing me. He's doing good there. Outside of that, I'm not sure what his plans are, what his thoughts are. Obviously, with the new addition to the family, he's got his hands full with that. I know he's been driving over in Europe a little bit off and on, in Sweden driving some touring cars and things like that. I'm not sure, and it's not really my business, I guess, to know what his driving career, what he's looking at doing, really. From a standpoint of as a team member and things like that, we still talk, and he's still offering advice and helping out the team. So from that aspect, it's still very valuable to use somebody like that.

KING: Speaking of families, is it true you're engaged?

RICE: Yep.

KING: When are you getting married?

RICE: At the end of the year when I have time, which doesn't look like it's going to happen right now.

KING: It's hard to imagine Buddy Rice as a married guy.

RICE: It doesn't seem that weird.

KING: It does to me.

RICE: That's because you don't see her very much.

KING: That's probably true. Let's take a couple more, and we'll break up on one-on-ones.

KING: The question is: Aside from improvements to the car, technology-wise, how do you rate your driving? Are you a better driver in 2005 than you were in 2004?

RICE: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I've learned so much, and I think the biggest thing is, I guess, it kind of goes back to what we were talking about quality laps, making sure you make at the same time quality decisions. With the limited time we run, also the thought process is different. I have a better understanding what I want out of the car, what the car needs to have both in race and qualifying trim and how to decipher and differ between that and what aspect you need it for. So I think from that I've learned a lot. There's still more to learn because now the '04 rules have changed slightly for the '05 rules with the underwing changes and stuff and the updates, we have another new learning curve to make; and I think as a group we're learning more. Same as all the other teams, though. You have to make sure you're keeping up on the cutting edge with the rest of the groups. But I think definitely I've learned a lot, and there's still more to go. I don't think you ever stop learning.

KING: By the way, your last Top Ten list on Dave's show was pretty funny. When are you going to do another one?

RICE: I don't know; we have to wait and see.

KING: I'm curious, do they give those to you in advance and you rehearse them? Or do they give them to you and you read them cold? Because with the stuff you're reading, I'm thinking if you look at it the first time, you're thinking 'I'm not going to say that.'

RICE: They gave me the list, and I said I wasn't going to say that. Then Dave called, and it was pretty funny. We couldn't hardly get through -- we did one rehearsal, between us and the writers, we couldn't hardly get through the first rehearsal.

KING: What was the list, the Top Ten?

RICE: I'm not sure, Top Ten reasons I think why I love racing.

KING: There were some pretty funny ones. You adjusted with the script with the writers?

RICE: There was no adjusting. They told me what I was going to do, and I did it. (Laughter) It was comedy hour the whole time. We could hardly get through it.

KING: How did Dave like the ticket? I think this is the first time that the owners have been on the ticket, you, Bobby and Dave.

RICE: Yeah. Dave hasn't missed a workday in 10 or 15 years, and he took time to go get the Baby Borg with us. I think it's a huge honor for him to be on there with me. I think it was a great time, and it was a perfect time to put those two owners on there, Bob being a former winner and obviously Dave getting his first one being a local guy. I think it was great to have those guys on there.

KING: By the way, I want to mention in addition to Dave Letterman being an Indianapolis native, Scott is, as well. So you could tell when those two guys walked into the Trackside Conference Room after the race just how special it was to both of them to grow up in this town and to be able to know that that Borg-Warner Trophy was there. Let's take one more question, and we'll take one-on-ones and we'll get ready to head over.

KING: The question is with the road and street courses being added, how much of a problem is it for the team to go from one circuit to another, to go from an oval to a street course, back to an oval?

RICE: For the drivers, it's not too big of a deal because when we were -- as we've been being groomed through the smaller formulas, we've been able to did that. We've ran street courses, permanent courses, shorts, ovals, so for us it's not too difficult to adapt. The big thing is especially after, with the way all the races are falling right now and including the testing we're doing here and we're off to Infineon next week to do testing, there's a lot of work for the teams to constantly keep up. We do have one car that we've more or less delegated to road race trim and we have two cars or so for oval trim. But still there's a lot of change and a lot of upkeep that has to happen between the two cars. So for that there's a lot going on. Like we've only brought half our group here for this day of testing and left the rest back at the shop to get ready for our Infineon test because right after that we leave for Japan. There's a lot of extra work and hours put in for the team to make the transitions.

KING: Buddy, we appreciate it. Thanks, looking forward to watching you race in Japan and later at the Speedway. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2004 winner, Buddy Rice.

-ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice