Buddy Rice Wins 88th Indianapolis 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 30, 2004 -- Rahal-Letterman Racing made it a clean sweep at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May when Buddy Rice claimed victory in the 88th Indianapolis 500 under caution when...
Buddy Rice Wins 88th Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 30, 2004 -- Rahal-Letterman Racing made it a clean sweep at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May when Buddy Rice claimed victory in the 88th Indianapolis 500 under caution when the race stopped on Lap 180 due to rain.
Rice, driver of the No. 15 Rahal-Letterman Argent/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, also won the MBNA Pole Award and his crew claimed the victory in the Checkers/Rally's Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge on May 27.
"The least amount of mistakes," said Rice, who joined Bobby Unser as the only drivers to win the pole, pit stop contest and race in the same year. "We had to go through some diversions. We had an issue with one of the pit stops, but hey, these guys have been fighting all year. We had a couple other of these deals won, but we had little mishaps that weren't our fault, so this is great."
Rice, the first American-born winner of the 500 since 1998, captured his first Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series victory and Honda's first win at the Speedway.
He became the 17th Indianapolis 500 winner from the pole, and the first since Arie Luyendyk in 1997. He led four times for 91 laps.
"My God, what a job Buddy did today," said late-night talk show host David Letterman, who co-owns Rahal-Letterman Racing with 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. "He was just coming after it, coming after it, coming after it. My thanks to Bobby (Rahal) and Scott (Roembke, team manager) and Honda and Argent and all these people that really worked hard. It's just a thrill to be part of this."
Andretti Green Racing grabbed the next three spots, with Tony Kanaan finishing second, Dan Wheldon third and Bryan Herta fourth. Bruno Junqueira rounded out the top five for as Honda claimed the first seven positions.
"(Rice) was much stronger," Kanaan said. "I don't think I had the car to pass him. He was much faster, and he had a better car today. Not always the best car and best driver wins, but today I think he deserves it."
Wheldon, who recorded his seventh-straight top-five finish, maintained his IndyCar Series points lead over Kanaan by one point, 158-157.
"It's fantastic to come in third at the Indianapolis 500," he said. "When you work so hard and miss it by so little, it's kind of disappointing in a way. But you know, Buddy Rice had a really strong month, and other than somebody on our team, you couldn't have a better winner other than him.
"It's great for Honda. All of us were strong today. It was a good team effort. It's a difficult race. You've got to hang it out to win it, and Buddy certainly did that today."
The race start was delayed 2 hours, 11 minutes because of persistent morning rain showers. The race was also red-flagged on Lap 29 for 1 hour, 47 minutes because of rain.
Rice averaged 138.518 mph in a race slowed by eight cautions for 56 laps.
The 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 29, 2005, and tickets are available beginning Monday, May 31 by calling (800) 822-INDY or by logging onto www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com. The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Bombardier 500K at 8 p.m. (EDT) on June 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.