IRL: Indy 500: Rahal, Brack, Rice press conference, part 1

89th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Transcript Wednesday, May 18, 2005 Bobby Rahal, Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice MODERATOR: Good morning. We'll get started right away because this team has a lot of work yet to do today. There is not a team in...

89th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Transcript
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bobby Rahal, Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice

MODERATOR: Good morning. We'll get started right away because this team has a lot of work yet to do today.

There is not a team in the Gasoline Alley garage area that has made more headlines this month than the team that's sitting up here right now. Most of the headlines I'm sure they wanted; some of the others unfortunately they did not. But they have been the team this year as the defending winning team. They came in with already a lot of attention.

They have another announcement here to make this morning. Here to do that is Bobby Rahal.

BOBBY RAHAL: Thank you. Well, I guess, no surprise, we are very disappointed in finding out that Buddy would not be cleared, and we understand fully why. Certainly we support the doctors' decision, and we feel very badly for Buddy. As a driver, you know what it means to get your focus, you dream of winning this race, let alone winning it again or repeating it. I know he's extremely disappointed and we're disappointed for him. However, we had to go forward.

I just thought it's somehow right that I called my friend Mr. Brack up and asked if he'd be ready to fill in. The obvious sign is that he was ready to fill in. We're very anxious and excited to have Kenny back driving our car. I think that was one of the key factors, was we wanted to have someone come in who would be as competitive as Buddy, who had experience with our team before, and who we felt would work with the other two drivers, Danica and Vitor, in making sure we had three equally competitive cars come Race Day.

I'm very pleased to welcome Kenny back in the fold. As I say, the circumstances aren't necessarily the best for any of us, but I know he'll do a great job for us. Thank you.

MODERATOR: We'll get a short comment from Buddy and Kenny, then we'll open it up for questions from the media.

Buddy, you've been a great champion for the Indianapolis 500. You can sense the frustration in your statement yesterday. Just talk about the decision-making process, what you'll be doing the rest of the month.

BUDDY RICE: Well, the decision, I mean, it was made the other day with the doctors, what we had to go through. We knew what, you know, the circumstances were. They knew there was a fairly substantial hit, but at the time obviously we didn't think it was going to come out this way.

I couldn't think of someone that was more deserving and couldn't think of a better person to put in the car. Because I had to come in on I guess adverse situations, when I had to take in -- when Kenny had his crash and I had to fill in, I couldn't be happier to actually see him be able to come back here and hop in a competitive car. Granted, he's not going to start where he wants to, but I don't think it will take him very long to get up to speed, and he'll be in a car that will give him another shot at trying to win the Indy 500 again.

It was extremely difficult last year to come in. He was a huge supporter. He was there all year. He was a big help to everything that happened last year. So I'm extremely happy that he's in the car, gets another shot.

I'm not going anywhere for the month. I'll be here all month long to do whatever I can to help the team out. Hopefully at the end of the month I'll get cleared and we'll get back at Texas, cruising back along like we're supposed to do.

For right now, we need to do what's best for the team, what's best for the other two drivers and all of our sponsors, and that's to put Kenny in the seat. I'm extremely happy for him.

MODERATOR: It's time to welcome back the 1999 winner of the Indianapolis 500. Kenny, your initial comments on your return.

KENNY BRACK: Well, I got a little surprise when I had the call, I must say, because, you know, I followed -- I followed the 500 from home. But I thought Buddy would be OK. You know, I really did think he was going to drive. Monday night I got the call from these guys.

You know, I got to thank the team because I've been with this team for a long time. They've been very supportive to me. It feels like, although I haven't driven for them this year, I never really left, because we're still going out to lunches, I mean, the workshop and stuff like that. That was a big part of this decision to fill for Buddy.

For me, I feel ready. But, you know, to come into this situation like this is obviously a little more challenging than being around for the whole month and all that. But I felt that knowing the team and knowing the players here and we've done great things together, it's a lot more easy.

I feel sorry for Buddy. Of course, I kind of know how he feels like about this. But luckily he's not going to be out for very long. I'm going to try to do a good job for him in this situation, and for the team. So I want to thank Bobby, of course, and Dave Letterman, Scott Roembke, all the guys at the team for passing this opportunity.

MODERATOR: We will open it up for questions from the media.

Q: Kenny, can you just talk a little bit about your physical situation. I know you tested in a car in Richmond last year, you weren't too thrilled about it. How do you feel now as far as that goes?

BRACK: Well, I mean, I was quite fast actually. We were only 1/10th off the lap record, so I think that was pretty good. But I didn't feel that I was physically fit to drive the Richmond race because that's one of the most physical races. That was obviously only five, six -- well, six months when I got out of the hospital and started my rehab program. When I got out of the hospital, I was in a wheelchair, so you can imagine what a strain that was.

Now it's one and a half years later. I've been working out very hard. I'm back to the same physical condition as I was before the crash because I have been basically pounding myself in the gym ever since I got out of the hospital. So I feel physically very good.

Q: Buddy, all the highs that you've experienced in the year since you left here, after winning the race last year, can you maybe take us back to that minute that Dr. Bock looked you in the eye and said, "I'm sorry, you're not going to be able to race," what your emotions were at that time.

RICE: Well, the first question, I mean, the first question was: Is there anything we can do to speed this recovery up or make it happen, maybe not necessarily to come back for the Speedway but even to get ready for Texas? With whatever the situation was, that's just -- you know, we've discussed that. We know what we have to do to get prepared for Texas.

But, I mean, I guess my first thought was, it's a huge letdown to the team and all the sponsors. That's my first concern. I mean, those people are the ones that helped me get to where I was at. They gave me the mark last year of winning the 500. That was the first thing I thought of.

To not be able to come back and defend, especially when you know the car is sitting in there, it's capable of sitting on the front row if not the pole again, and it's a car that's capable of winning. There's two other cars sitting in that same stable that can do the same thing. So hopefully it's just, you know, we keep it in-house, we keep it in the family, and it all works. But it's just extremely disappointing. There's not a whole lot more you can do about it. It's just the way it is.

Q: Kenny, is it a tad surreal to be sitting there in that suit sliding back into the 15 car, racing in the 500 this year?

BRACK: Well, you know, I don't think a Hollywood film producer could have come up with a script better than this one. I really -- you know, having Buddy replace me and then be coming back to replace him, yeah, it's a little strange.

But, you know, like I said, I believe that it happened for a reason perhaps, and we'll see how it goes. But I think that, like Buddy says, the car is obviously very fast, the team is great. These are the guys that I used to work with, you know, with Team Rahal for years. I feel very comfortable in this situation, although coming in a little late. But I already know the team very well. You know, it should be -- that part of it should be fine.

Q: Kenny, I'm wondering if this hadn't happened, how close were you to getting in a car, driving on a regular basis right now?

BRACK: Well, in IndyCars, not that close, because I tried in the beginning of the year to look at options to go to the 500. But it had to be a competitive situation, something I believed had one of the -- a shot to win the race. It would be no point for me coming back unless I felt I was in a situation where I could be really competitive. Unfortunately, there was none out there at that time.

I wasn't really, you know, counting on anything. I don't know, like I said, this thing happened. Had this happened with another team that I wouldn't have known, I probably wouldn't have been here because I want to feel that I have a really -- an opportunity to do well.

And I feel with all the pieces, although I come in late, but with Team Rahal, with Bobby, Dave and Scott and all the guys, and plus Buddy here, he said he was going to help me, you know, tell me how he did it last year (laughter), I feel like there's a lot of things here that are really, really good. That's the way it happened. So here I am.

Had it not happened, I wouldn't have been here. Would I have had a ride for the rest the season? Probably not. I don't think I will in this situation, either, but maybe I would have raced something else, who knows.

Q: Kenny, if you could talk about what could happen beyond this race, I mean, what kind of opportunities opened up for you now. And, Bobby, talk about any consideration to expanding this team to a four-car effort.

BRACK: Well, from my part, I think we're going to look at this as I'm here to do the best job I can for my friends at Team Rahal Letterman. That's the thing we will do.

And for the future, you know, just like this situation, I don't think you can predict the future. But that's the situation right now. I'm sure Buddy will come back here, you know, after Indy, and I will wish him all the best to go on and try to win races in the championship.

RAHAL: I think in terms of the team, I don't think we're in a position to run four cars. But I think we'll reserve judgment and we'll -- we've got a pretty big job to do from now till the end of this month. We'll see what happens after that.

I think as a team, we have to make sure that Buddy gets back to health ASAP so that he is ready for Texas, and we have to make sure that we give maximum effort to Kenny, Danica and Vitor. You know, we'll see what happens after Memorial Day. Running four cars, I'm not sure that's in our -- that's in the cards, as they say, but we'll see.

Q: Bob, you came here with three cars ready to go. Any key personnel switches because of this situation?

RAHAL: No, no, nothing.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice