IRL: Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira teleconference (part 2)

Continued from part 1 VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, as Buddy was saying, it's all about first the teamwork we did again. When Buddy was testing in Nazareth, I was testing in Kentucky. The track is way better than last year. It doesn't have as many bumps...

Continued from part 1

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, as Buddy was saying, it's all about first the teamwork we did again. When Buddy was testing in Nazareth, I was testing in Kentucky. The track is way better than last year. It doesn't have as many bumps as we did last year. The rest of the facility, again, it's really, really, really great.

I mean, part of our speed on the one-and-a-half-mile oval, it's, again, Honda. It's the engine to have. Again, the cars are going to be good. I tested there. The cars are going to be as good as we had in Kansas. But, I mean, we're just going to have to play the game there. I'm sure there are people that are going to be really fast there, and they're going to be really competitive.

But we're going to have one of the strongest packages there. From my side, we have to correct all the weakness that we have, which some of it was the pit stops. We've did teamwork that Centrix brought as philosophy. I think we can do much better and go for the first win.

Q: Buddy, the run that you have been on since you captured the pole at Indy and then won the race, from the outside looking in, it looks like something happened at Indy that either gave you confidence or the team confidence or a little bit of both. Is that pretty correct?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I think there's definitely some confidence. I think the biggest thing we needed that we were able to do at Indy was to get testing in. With this new chassis, me being new to the team, my engineer coming over from the other side of Rahal Letterman's group to come to the IRL, all of us getting an understanding of this chassis and the Honda package and everything, we just missed a little bit in the first part of the season on the four days of testing. We only ended up testing two days because we had problems, so we only got really one day in at Homestead and one day at the Phoenix test.

Since then we've gone from basically what we looked at as one of the worst short-oval cars at Phoenix to where we ran second and were in a position to win at Milwaukee. After our Nazareth test, we were quite quick there.

I just think that we got some testing time in. We grew together as a team and understood what we were looking for from both my side and what the chassis wanted. I think also it was a big help to have Roger (Yasukawa) there and Vitor there because we're getting that much more data and information that it allowed us to be much more aggressive on setups and to try a lot of other things that we weren't going to be able to try.

I think that whole combination of everything is what's made it all happen for us.

Q: Buddy and Vitor, what is it at Rahal Letterman that causes this success? I know it's all about people and all of that, but if you're standing in the building as a driver, can you just feel success in that building?

VITOR MEIRA: Actually, yes, you do. I mean, I think the whole thing, again, is the simplicity that everybody approaches the work and the goals. I mean, we have clear goals and we have simplicity how to get there. There's nothing really complicated. It's not anything huge going on. It's just like Buddy said before, it's the quality of people that they have there. Those are the only assets on the race team, is the people, and how well the team works together.

Me and Buddy, we work really, really good together. After every test session, we both meet at the engineer's room, and we discuss the same problems, and everybody works towards one goal. I know that everybody there is working, too. But I think our thing is the simplicity and the guys we have on board, which with Buddy is Argent and Pioneer, with me it's Centrix Financial. Without them and Honda, that would not be possible.

Again, what makes the thing great is the people and the teamwork we do.

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I think Vitor hit the nail on the head. I think it's just the teamwork.

I think certain things happen. I think Bob (Rahal) made adjustments last year that he thought was going to be better for the team, and obviously, one of the changes he was not anticipating was obviously having Kenny (Brack) out of the seat. They made their decisions before the final race, and it was unfortunate what happened with Kenny. So I think that they were making adjustments already for what they thought was going to be better for this year.

You know, to have to fill in for Kenny, I'm just fortunate enough that I was the one they decided to choose to have come fill in for him. I think it's a group effort, and there's just a combination of the (Panoz) G Force chassis and the Honda has been the right decision right now. We're very pleased with that.

But I think the way they've made the adjustments with engineers and moving people around and different things, it's all kind of coming together. I mean, Bob has been in this position before. He's been in the position chasing championships with Kenny, back in the CART days, things like that. So I think that it's -- I don't know. Right now it's all kind of clicking and we're all on the same page and everyone's doing their job.

Q: You can feel it but you can't really see it, is what it sounds like. You can't just put your hand on what it is, it's just there?

BUDDY RICE: Exactly. I think it's just something that happens. It's no different when I won the (Toyota Atlantic) championship in 2000. It's just one of those things that everything starts clicking and rolls in the right direction. It's all coming together nicely, and hopefully, we can keep the steamroller moving.

Q: Buddy, a lot of compliments over the weekend about the X Games move you made at the Indy 500 with the four-wide pass down the main straight.

BUDDY RICE: The pass on that restart was something that we needed to do at that point at the 500. I think obviously there was some great stuff going on at the X Games this weekend, as well.

Q: The ABC crew thought you might have been rubbing it in a little bit after the race was over because Tony (Kanaan) was frustrated, you ended up getting the checkered flag, and they had to go find him because he stormed off. I don't think he did the TV interview for second place. Is there a rivalry developing? I know you guys are all in the Honda camp, but is there a rivalry going on between Rahal Letterman and Andretti Green? It seems like it's either you or them every weekend.

BUDDY RICE: I don't know if there's a rivalry really. That's something that gets played up by certain people who want to make a big drama scene or something.

But I think that right now, two big Honda-powered teams are running up front and fighting for it. That's exactly what Honda wants. It's good for all of us. But it's not to say that the other engine manufacturers aren't working hard.

To say that I was rubbing it in after the win against Tony, I have no idea. I wasn't even out of the car yet when all that had happened. How was I supposed to know that he was that upset or that was even going on? To say I was rubbing it in I don't think is correct.

Q: Vitor, I remember a couple years ago on the same day that a Brazilian won the pole at Indianapolis, Bruno Junqueira, was the day of the Ferrari team orders. Rubens Barrichello was to step aside, and the president of Brazil got on television and was ripping Formula 1. How do they feel at home? What kind of response are you getting back home from the IRL? We know Helio and Gil are huge heroes back there. Is there a growing sense of excitement about the Indy Racing League in Brazil?

VITOR MEIRA: Yes, it is. First, we have several Brazilians in the championship, but mainly it's because how great the races have been. Not only with Tony (Kanaan) fighting for the championship with Buddy, but how the races and the finishes have been. I mean, we had the second-closest finish in the history. We had almost every race finish, if not side-by-side, it's never more than half a second away. That's what nowadays racing needs.

Again, at that time that Rubens had to let (Michael) Schumacher go, they were really disappointed on racing, and the racing there started to lose a lot. Mainly F1, it's the team that dominates there.

But IRL is really having a real nice (recognition) there. It's only going to grow. The TV packages are going to improve for next year. The IRL is doing a really good job not only here in America, but all over the world. I mean, it can only get better from now on.

Q: Going out to Anaheim to see the Angels and Baltimore Orioles. We'll start lobbying them to get your first pitch when they're in California in September.

VITOR MEIRA: Cool.

Q: Neither one of you has had great luck at Kentucky Speedway. I'm wondering if that creates a problem for you this weekend or if you can just look past it because of the packages you had before weren't nearly as good and the teamwork wasn't.

BUDDY RICE: I think you just said it. I mean, it's obviously -- we're in a completely different situation. I definitely am in a completely different situation than I was last year. I think that's what's making the biggest difference.

I don't think we're overly concerned that our past results weren't as good there, especially after the test Vitor just had down there with some of the other teams. So I think we're both going to roll in there no different than we have at any of these other mile-and-a-half tracks that we just plan on doing what we have been.

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, I mean, I feel just like Buddy does. We did have some not really good times, but that wasn't only in Kentucky. That also happened on my side, for example, like Michigan last year and Kansas last year, we didn't finish races and we had really bad luck. But those place, they've been really good for us.

I think Kentucky, if we play everything right, if the group comes together, it's going to be no different. I mean, everything's going to fall in place as it's been happening. It's going to depend on our work. That's what is going to teach the way.

MODERATOR: Thanks very much, gentlemen. I know you have a lot going on this time of year. We'll see you in a couple days in Kentucky.

BUDDY RICE: Thank you.

VITOR MEIRA: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks again, everyone.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Bruno Junqueira , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira