IRL: Indy 500: Lance Armstrong press conference

2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE Lance Armstrong Saturday, May 27, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Q: You were in the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Pace Car this morning. Your first impressions of the car on the track? LANCE ARMSTRONG: My...

2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Lance Armstrong
Saturday, May 27, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Q: You were in the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Pace Car this morning. Your first impressions of the car on the track?

LANCE ARMSTRONG: My first impression is of the track, and how big (it is). Actually yesterday we flew right over it, and you realize that it's like a city. And when you get in, you realize it's a lot bigger, a lot grander than I thought. And then on the track, I was a lot more impressed and nervous than I thought I would be, too. I hope I don't mess it up.

Q: You took some laps with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford this morning. What was some of the advice that Johnny gave you?

ARMSTRONG: Nothing, he just wanted to talk about Texas. (laughter) No, that was a joke. We did talk about Texas, though. Just try to keep the group together on the last lap because, of course I didn't know this, but I guess they try to play games with one another, move forward and backward and try to get an advantage somehow. He was telling me that, 'As you're going 100 mph, just keep looking in your rearview mirror and don't let those guys drift back on you, you've got to drift back with them.' I'm like, 'All right, I'll be so nervous I can't do that.' But it's good; it's intense.

Q: Lance, have you practiced at other facilities so you're ready for this?

ARMSTRONG: No, just the streets around Austin. People ask me all the time if I've been practicing and I say: 'Yeah, every day. I try to do 120 (mph) every day.' No, I haven't done that, never been on a racetrack.

Q: Obviously this is one of sports' greatest events, like the Tour de France is one of sports' great events. Have you ever been able to follow this race in the past?

ARMSTRONG: That's a good question. The summers for me will be totally different this year than they have for 15 years. No, I would have been exposed to Formula One since I was in Europe the last 15 years, but that's the extent of it. So I have to say I've really been out of it as far as America's concerned more than a decade.

Q: You've been around the racetrack, you've seen it empty. Are you prepared for 400,000 people tomorrow, the colors and everything?

ARMSTRONG: Even as freaked out as I was today, it's going to be a whole another level. Coming out of the last turn at 120 mph, that was tougher than I thought. And not really knowing where the wall is, they're like, 'Get up closer to the wall.' I'm like: 'No, I'm not getting closer to the wall. No, I'm going to stay away from the wall!' It will be a whole another feeling, and when you put that many people in the place it narrows up real quick.

Q: Did you just get in last night? Did you have a chance to meet any of the drivers? Do you have somebody to cheer for?

ARMSTRONG: We got in yesterday and met all the drivers today, or most of them. I'm a neutral fan. I'm a race fan, so whoever has the best team, the fast car, the most efficient stops, that's who deserves to win.

Q: Driving the Pace Car here is one of the neat things that people get to do because of their celebrity. What other cool things have you had a chance to do?

ARMSTRONG: Thursday I just went to (F1) practice in Monaco. AMD is a big partner of our team (Discovery Channel Cycling Team) and also a big partner of the Ferrari team. We were totally behind the ropes there, with the engineers in the pits when (Michael) Schumacher was in the car. I had the headset on when he was giving feedback during testing. That's a pretty interesting experience. Flying on Air Force One is a pretty cool experience, not something you do every day, especially nowadays. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of cool things, but I suspect walking out there with all those people will be -- ask me tomorrow. Thursday, I thought that was top five, just being in the Ferrari pits like that, but this will be up there. And what's cool about Formula One is all the drivers there said, 'Are you coming to the race on Sunday?' and I said, 'No, I'm going to drive the Pace Car at Indy,' and they all thought that was a big deal. They're like, 'Really?' It was Thursday there, and they're like, 'When are you leaving?' So that was cool.

Q: How are you doing with the cancer funding with President Bush?

ARMSTRONG: Well, we don't have it yet. I don't know that we'll get it in this budget cycle. The money has already been budgeted and they budgeted so far out, but we're on the radar. We're going to continue to have a presence there and continue to remind them that it's a priority for us and should be a priority for everybody. We have a lot of good relationships there, with the President or the other side of the spectrum. We have a lot of allies because the illness is apolitical. Even last week we saw Tony Snow's first press conference as press secretary, wearing a yellow band and becoming emotional as he reflected on his cancer story. Relationships like that will help us. I've committed to go every month and just get in their face. We'll continue to do that.

Q: Tell me about your funds.

ARMSTRONG: It's a series of funds called the Livestrong Funds with American Century.

Q: Inaudible, about interview of Armstrong on CNBC.

ARMSTRONG: It was supposed to be about funds, and they started asking me about Barry Bonds. I was like, 'What?' First and last time on CNBC. They're not here, are they?

Q: What affect does your non-participation in the Tour de France have on race fans this year, and who is your favorite rider this year?

ARMSTRONG: I don't know what impact it will have. I hope it doesn't have a serious impact because I want to see it do well regardless who rides. We'll see -- the ratings will tell. It's not our dream that it falls off. I'm a race fan; I want to see a whole crop of 15-year-lds out there who want to ride the Tour de France -- and ultimately will. As far as my favorite, I change my mind every week. This week, I don't know, the way (Ivan) Basso is riding the Giro, he's really impressive. Perhaps too impressive -- he's spending too much energy. (Jan) Ullrich has looked good during the Giro although he dropped out yesterday. He's my favorite. I think the course suits him.

Q: Have you gotten the urge to get in the two-seater or go to a race school?

ARMSTRONG: It's just a question of time. I've been invited to every race school, but I don't have the three or four days to go do that. But I will someday. But in terms of getting in the back of the two-seater, I don't know, at 200 miles an hour or whatever they do, I'd prefer to have the wheel at that fast. Not over 200, but at anything over 100.

Q: Will you attend any of the stages of the Tour de France?

ARMSTRONG: Again, that changes every week, too. I was going to go, but now I'm not sure I'm going to go. I've been to Europe twice in three weeks, so I'm going to try to cut down on travel. I think there are some other opportunities, cancer-related in July, that I need to be at that. Having said that, I would like to go to support the guys. I don't need to be out front to have a presence with the race or certainly with the organization, but to be there for the (Discovery Channel) team and with the riders would be my main priority if I go.

-ims-

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