IRL: Indy 500: Winning team press conference transcript, part 1

88th Indianapolis 500 Winner's Press Conference Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, David Letterman, Scott Roembke Sunday, May 30, 2004 Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR As a champion here, now you've done it as a driver and an owner, what a feat in its...

88th Indianapolis 500 Winner's Press Conference
Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, David Letterman, Scott Roembke
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Part 1 of 2

MODERATOR As a champion here, now you've done it as a driver and an owner, what a feat in its own.

BOBBY RAHAL It's obviously very sweet. People have asked me, is it sweeter than doing it as a driver; I think it's just different. There's nothing like crossing the Yard of Bricks when you're driving a racing car. And yet, at the same token, this has been just a great achievement for our team. Three in the top 10, I mean, I can't be happier. And Buddy, of course, drove the wheels off the thing, and Roger did a great job. What I'm most pleased about, this guy to my right, Scott Roembke, who grew up here and this is his life, Indianapolis, especially. I am so pleased for him and for David, for the same reasons, being from Indiana, this is just an awesome achievement for our team. And while I appreciate it, and appreciate it greatly, I am more so pleased for Scott and Dave and the entire team, and of course Buddy, a guy that people wouldn't give a chance to, and here he is. I think, I dare say, I believe that he dominated the race. I don't know how many laps he led, but he certainly drove around everybody when he had to. You know, just a fantastic performance.

MODERATOR David, we certainly enjoy your show at night and laugh at your jokes and antics, but we saw you right after the race was over doing an interview, and it looked like you were pretty emotional about coming back here and winning the Indianapolis 500.

DAVID LETTERMAN Yeah, I don't even know where to begin. I don't belong here, first of all. I've been with this organization, I don't know, since '94, '95, something like that, and I want to be sure that I say good, smart things here about good, smart people. I want to thank everybody, because, you know, you work just as hard in the races that you lose as you do in the races that you win. I want to thank everybody in this organization, top to bottom, for the hard work they have done since I've been a part of this team. I couldn't be happier. This win today has so many interesting, worthy facets. Bobby touched on Buddy coming in, getting a good ride, and just, was there a stronger car in the field today; was there a stronger driver in the field today; did it look like a horizon job when they dropped the green flag. Then we went out and we had brunch and cocktails, came back, started it again. I'm sitting in the motor home talking with Kenny Brack about his baby and he says, "You know, I think they are racing." We heard it may be Labor Day before we get this thing dried up. I go up there, I see Treble in the pit stop, he was talking to Bobby's dad, and I said, "Where did Buddy come out?" 16th. At that point I went outside for a little breath, and I said, well, this is going to be one of those things, be happy with a top-five, top-three finish. And by the time I got back to the pits, my God, Buddy just would not stop, and it was eating everybody alive. There's something about it, it was I think preordained certainly. You could feel it. You could feel it from the start of the race. Buddy is a tough kid. He's a pretty tough guy. Please no, flash photos. (Laughter).

MODERATOR Well, Scott, you've got a hard act to follow. David touched on the fact that this has been your life and here you have a team, I want to accent the positives for starters. First of all, the two Andretti Green drivers who came in here finished second and third said the best driver and the best team won the race. They made absolutely to bones about that, and said, it didn't really matter if the race went back to green, the dominant car and driver won, and that's the great news. You had won the pit stop competition, and yet, one of the key moments was, in fact, there was a pit stop that just went a little awry, and you know the thin margin between winning and losing here that must have been a moment of heartache for you.

SCOTT ROEMBKE Well, certainly caught our attention. But, you know, it's a long race, and sometimes you can get away with making a mistake and other years you can't. Fortunately for us, we did stall on the one stop and went from the front to the back, but circumstances allowed us, I think it was quite obvious that we had the fastest car. And then, you know it became a race against Mother Nature, and timing that right, and we're just very thankful that that last pit stop sequence was allowed to cycle through and it didn't rain in the middle of that, or else that could have been a pretty big wild card. I just want to thank Bobby and David for giving us everything we need to put this team together. It was a total team effort and the guys at work we talked about this after the pole, all three guys worked together all month. I saw Roger going to the front today, when we told Buddy that rain was 30 minutes away and he was PA, he had to go; he went. He did just a great job.

Q Talk more, Scott, about the situation with the race, at a moment that Bruno Junqueira came out of sequence --

ROEMBKE Well, I worked for Jim McGee for a long time, and he always is pretty on the leading edge of those things and certainly looked like that might pay off for him. It would have been their victory to take, certainly but just glad that it held off long enough to let the cars that had been up front motivate the day cycle through. You know, I believe the right car won the race. I'm pleased to hear the comments from the Andretti Green team. They are tough competitors. And thanks to Honda. I think it was a pretty good whitewashing there at that point. If you didn't have a Honda, you weren't going to win today.

Q It's obvious this is a very special race for all three of and you all three of you spent a significant amount of time away from this event, just put it in perspective a little bit having gone through that to come back here and win.

RAHAL For me, personally, leaving this, not being here was not a pleasant decision to make at the time. But, you know, we came back two years ago, and while we weren't obviously as successful, it was great to be back. This is, obviously, the most important race in the world, and, you know, you just can't help but feel that when you come out here on Race Day, the crowd is fantastic. And today, exemplified today when it rains and nobody went home that I could see, or maybe a few, but not many. And in the end, they saw a great race. So, you know, it was -- personally I'm very pleased not only that we came back two years ago, but that we focused our resources totally this year on this series and on this race, and I think that was an indication for the decision we made, because I think our performance as a team reflected the focus we were able to get by being in this series in total. For me, it's great to be back, and geez, to win it, as I say, it doesn't get any sweeter.

Q David, can you comment on that?

LETTERMAN Well, I go where Bobby goes, and he tells me what we're going to do and I say, sure, let's do it. But obviously, in the beginning, it was a disappointment not to be here, like for Scott and myself and for everyone else who lives here. When you're growing up, I don't know what it is, I guess when I was a kid, there was no Major League Baseball in Chicago and Cincinnati. But we didn't have anything here. So the Speedway became my Major League Baseball. Every month of May, the world would come to you. I can't begin to describe the magic that there was when you were a kid and you just tough it out through these long, lousy Indiana winters. I, of course, lived outside -- (Laughter). And then you get to go out to the Speedway, and there's just this excitement and this drama, and the place is sacred. The greats of the sport have competed here and given their lives here. I forget the question, but I -- (Laughter). You know, I haven't had anything to drink in 30 years. I feel like I'm drunk right now, I'm sorry.

Q Bob, this place has been a roller coaster for you as a team owner, and this year has been tumultuous, is it too soon -- you come back from 10 years ago, you came here as a team owner didn't even make the race as a champion and you swept the month.

RAHAL Well, there was no question, it was a dream month. As I say, I take a great deal of satisfaction, no one has to point out the irony of where we were ten years ago and where we are today, particularly with our relationship with Honda. Ten years ago, or 15 years ago, I worked hard to try to help bring Honda into Indy-car Racing, and several years later, under very difficult circumstances, I had to make a decision to leave them. And then I had to sit there and watch everybody else enjoy the spoils. Particularly the teams that did everything they could to try to keep Honda out when we were trying to bring them in. And then for me today, to bring Honda their first pole position at Indianapolis and their first victory, I'm just so proud of that. And I'm thankful to them for bringing me back into the fold, allowing us the opportunity again, because, frankly, I never thought that would happen. And they should take great satisfaction from this entire month, this entire year, to be sure. As Scott said, they cleaned house this month, and I just can't -- they work hard, they are brilliant and they deserve it. So, yeah, the irony of the last ten years is not lost, and this somehow wipes out all of the frustration and all of the depression that Scott and I went through when everybody started winning with Hondas and we were on the sidelines. It was great, and my congratulations to them.

Q Bob, can you talk about what it was like watching the last 10 or 15 laps of that when you knew the rain was coming and all of those decisions were being made?

RAHAL Well, as Scott said, we had been talking on the radio about the weather, and Bob saw -- his pilot is here and asked if we could get updates like every 15 minutes. Early in the race, said no problem, there's no rain coming. Then the call came, I don't know, probably an hour before the end of the race. And I said you know, there's a lot of bad weather coming and we think it will be here in 20 or 30 minutes; I think it actually took a little bit longer. I said to Scott, if you guys are going to go, now is the time, because especially after you led so easily in the beginning, to lose the race because of the rain, that would have been tough to swallow. Sure enough, as Scott said, Buddy got the whip out, and, man, he put some moves on some people, brilliant restarts. I felt that irrespective -- of course, then I'm listening to the radio and the officials are saying, well, we don't think it's wet enough yet. I'm going Like hell, it's wet! (Laughter) I think we ought to red flag this right now! (Laughter). So, obviously every other pit was saying the opposite. It was a great race for us. It was great to watch Buddy because the guy just drove through the pack.

Q If we would not have gotten the last rain, how confident were you Buddy could hold off the other drivers the last 20 laps?

RAHAL I appreciate Tony and Dan Wheldon's honesty. The only thing that could have tripped it up would have been getting bogged down in traffic. But I think had there been a restart and gone green, I think the same guy would be sitting up here today.

Part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice