IRL: Homestead: Buddy Rice preview

Young American Driver Fills in for Brack in Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda Indy Car RICE READY FOR 2004 SEASON OPENER - Buddy Rice knows he is playing a relief role as he climbs into the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda G-Force Indy car this...

Young American Driver Fills in for Brack in Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda Indy Car

RICE READY FOR 2004 SEASON OPENER - Buddy Rice knows he is playing a relief role as he climbs into the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda G-Force Indy car this weekend in the IRL IndyCar® Series opener at Homestead Miami Speedway. The personable 28-year-old racer from Phoenix is filling the Team Rahal seat for the injured Kenny Brack but Rice isn't about to just cruise around until the Swede is ready to return. Rice, the 2000 Atlantic Series Champion, has driven in eighteen IndyCar Series races in the last two years and is ready to show that he belongs in a seat full time. It is very exciting going to the first race of the year," said Rice, who finished second in his first IRL race in 2002 at Michigan. "I'm pumped up to race with Team Rahal. I've always wanted to drive for Bobby (Rahal) and Dave (Letterman). They have a very professional operation and I believe we can do some very good things here. I am in a unique position since I am filling for Kenny (Brack) right now. If I can do a good job, then maybe I can work with the team when Kenny returns. So it is important to have a good start to the season." Rice drove partial seasons for Cheever Racing in 2002 and 2003.

RICE AND TEAM RAHAL GET ACCUSTOMED TO NEW G-FORCE CHASSIS - After competing with the Dallara chassis in the 2003 IRL campaign, this year Team Rahal has moved to the G- Force car, the same chassis that won the 2003 IRL championship (Scott Dixon) and the 2003 Indy 500 (Gil de Ferran). Rice also is new to the G-Force car after driving the Dallara in 2002 and 2003. "We are still learning about the G-Force chassis but we are getting better each time out," said Rice. "The Home- stead track is different than last year but I ran the truck race there in November and we tested there a few weeks ago. So I feel comfortable with the new layout. It will be fast and there should be some good racing too. Needless to say, I'm anxious to get there and get started."

AFTER A FULL YEAR IN THE INDYCAR SERIES, TEAM RAHAL READY FOR HOMESTEAD - After many seasons in the Champ Car tour, Team Rahal made its first full season in the IRL in 2003 and the team's leaders will tell you that the all-oval race series is tougher than it looks. Brack held a Top Five position in the IRL points for the first half of the 2003 trial but the former IRL series champion dropped to ninth in the final points. "I'll admit that we struggled last year with the Indy car," said Scott Roembke, Team Rahal's COO and general manager. "There is an extremely fine line to hit the sweet spot on these cars. Running a single car effort meant that we couldn't test as many things as we wanted. We are excited to have Buddy with us. We wanted to run him in 2001 but the finances just weren't there. With Kenny's injuries, Buddy was a logical choice to fill the seat and I believe he'll show that he has lots of potential. We just have to give him a solid car now."

RICE COMES FROM A RACING FAMILY - Rice has been going to a race track before he can remember. Actually, he was at the track before he was born. His mother, Nancy, who was pregnant, carried Buddy to Buddy's father's, Bud, drag racing events in the 1970s. Bud Rice was a drag racing champion in the Southwest.

BRACK MAKING GREAT GAINS WITH HIS REHAB - Kenny Brack continues his recovery from serious injuries in last year's IRL IndyCar Series finale as the popular Swede works five hours a day, five days a week at Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence in Columbus, Ohio. Brack, the 1998 IRL champion and 1999 Indy 500 winner, suffered fractures to his spine, breastbone, ribs, right leg and both ankles in the 193 G-Load crash with Tomas Scheckter on lap 188 at the Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 12. In addition, Brack had his gall bladder removed in late December before beginning his hard rehab sessions. "It felt great to throw down the crutches and put the wheelchair in the closest," said Brack, who became a new father on Dec. 31 with the birth of his daughter Karma with wife Anita. "I couldn't believe how nice it was to walk on both feet again. I have a made a lot of gains in rehab recently and I feel better as each week goes by. Now I just want to continue the progress and get back to normal."

RAHAL HAPPY TO HAVE RICE IN THE SEAT - Former Indy 500 winner and three-time Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal, co-owner with David Letterman at Team Rahal, was pleased to bring in Rice as Brack's replacement for the start of the 2004 season. "I saw Buddy in the Atlantic Series and always felt he had a lot of talent and potential," said Rahal, who exited the race car after the 1998 season. "So it was an easy choice to go with Buddy until Kenny is ready. If Buddy is in point contention early in the season, the we'll work extremely hard to get the funding for Buddy for the entire year." Rice won five races and the series title in the 2000 Atlantic Championship.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice