IRL: Kansas: Top-three finishers press conference, part 2

Indy Racing League Argent Mortgage Indy 300 Top Three Transcript July 4, 2004 Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, Vitor Meira, Tony Kanaan Part 2 of 3 Q: Lapped cars trying to race with you, were they a problem today, for either of you? TONY KANAAN:...

Indy Racing League
Argent Mortgage Indy 300 Top Three Transcript
July 4, 2004

Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, Vitor Meira, Tony Kanaan

Part 2 of 3

Q: Lapped cars trying to race with you, were they a problem today, for either of you?

TONY KANAAN: I would say it was a problem, but I think -- it wasn't a single lap car, it was three lap cars fighting for a position. We came up on them. It's frustrating at the time. But they're there for position, too. The guy in front of me is trying to pass the guy in front of him, which is for fourth position. So I think I didn't have a lot of problems. I had a couple I was complaining about, as a typical race car driver, we all do.

But, yeah, I think a couple guys, I don't think it's worth it to mention the names. They could make it easier. But they did. What goes around comes around, so one day they're going to find me.

VITOR MEIRA: I think what shows, at least with me everybody was pretty clear and pretty clean. I mean, I had not much trouble actually. I think what shows that is the amount of green flag we had. People were respecting each other, more than Richmond and more than Texas. I didn't have many problems. As Tony mentioned, always you have a couple of situations or events. But it wasn't anything really drastic. Was only a couple of problems. And what shows that, everybody was respecting each other again with the amount of green-flag laps.

Q: How formidable do you think Buddy Rice is going to be in the chase for the title?

TONY KANAAN: I think he's the guy to beat. If you look at his starting positions, he's been pretty strong. He probably -- I mean, if you go back all the way to Homestead, he wasn't so strong there. But then Japan, he had a problem, because he was right with me. I think he could have won that race. Indy, then we go. He's on fire. He has the team. He has the car. They are very good organization. They know how to win. They have the engine, which is unfortunately the same as mine (laughter). Different chassis, we can always, you know, debate on that, what's better, what's not. But the bottom line is, they're hooked up and we're going to keep chasing them to try to start in front of them. They're going to keep chasing us to pass us in the championship.

It's been a great fight. I think that's what we need. We need each other to pull and to push actually to be better. They're pushing me and I'm pushing them. The great thing is it's all going to stay in the house at Honda. It makes me happy, for sure.

Q: Talk about passing on the outside today.

VITOR MEIRA: That seems like that's the line I always choose on the one-and-a-half-mile oval. I always work the outside line better. You have more space. It's a bit more difficult, but you have more space. I feel safer and more comfortable on the outside line to pass. To protect, always the inside line is the one to have.

But the car was hooked up. I couldn't -- I mean, I was flat even on the outside line, behind people, by myself. So the car was just great.

Q: (Inaudible)?

VITOR MEIRA: It's tough. I mean, it's a joke. But at the end of the day, is the truth. We have the rule No. 2, which is "don't crash each other." That's a pretty strong rule.

As long as we respect each other, I mean, Buddy, I respect a lot him. I pretty sure he respects me. That's what it is all about. We race hard. We race fast, but we respect each other. That's what matters. And that's why we are working so good, even outside of the track and also inside of the track. We work together as a team. We work as one. That's why it's giving fruits right now.

Q: First of all, what is Rule No. 1?

TONY KANAAN: I'm not going to go there, I'm sorry.

Q: Did you look over at your teammate at all or did you stay focused in front of you?

VITOR MEIRA: Actually, you can't see much. You can't see much. I mean, I was just focused knowing that he was inside. I was just focusing, do the quickest outside line I could. I think it worked. I mean, Rahal Letterman racing couldn't ask for better, and Honda either. Top six (finishers), pretty amazing.

Q: (Inaudible)?

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, it's not big problem. The outside line is not the quickest one. Might be the one to overtake people, but you have to have a really hooked-up car and really fast car to do it. I had it. I did a couple of laps. But it's difficult to stay up there. The car had no problems. I mean, the car was perfect the whole weekend. We had a bit of trouble in one of the pit stops, but we came around that. That's one thing that goes to the book, is pit stops, and work better on that.

MODERATOR: Tony and Vitor, thank you. Congratulations.

VITOR MEIRA: Thank you.

TONY KANAAN: Thank you, everybody.

MODERATOR: Buddy Rice, our winner just joined us. Buddy and Bobby (Rahal), congratulations. The finish today was 5/1000ths of a second. The second-closest. Take us through those final 10 laps and tell us what you're thinking about.

BUDDY RICE: I mean, we knew we had good cars. Our cars are set up almost identically. We tried some different things. In the final practice, when it was all said and done, we ended up coming back and putting a little bit of each car on both of our cars.

We knew when that restart was going to happen, I knew what Vitor had. Sometimes you run against other people, you're not exactly sure what their strong points are just yet. But Vitor, it was going to be the same. I also feel that when the yellow came out, we were in a good position. We were happy with where we were at. But obviously, when you have a restart like that, you have a 12-lap shoot-out, you're going to have to be on your toes and take everything you can out of the car.

To have a close 1-2 finish, it's just great to be able to get a 1-2 finish for not only the Rahal Letterman team, but also for Vitor, for his finish in second place in as many races. It's a huge boost for him, and for our team.

To win your sponsor's sponsored race is huge. To keep everything in the Honda family, as both Tony and Vitor said, it's important for everyone to work together. That's what finally happened. That's why we were able to finish 1-2 with our group.

MODERATOR: Bobby, your drivers are racing neck-and-neck all that time. What are you thinking and what did you say to them after the race?

BUDDY RICE: You might not want to answer that (laughter).

BOBBY RAHAL: I didn't get a chance to get to them after the race. We were celebrating. As I said, you work to be in that position, to be 1-2. That's the whole idea. You know, I was in Vitor's pit, and Scott Roembke, my right-hand guy, really the guy who makes Team Rahal, or Rahal Letterman really tick, he's over in Buddy's. I think we're going to have to keep it in that way, every time I'm in Buddy's pit, he hasn't finished, when I'm in Vitor's pit, he (Rice) wins.

In all seriousness, that's what we work for. These guys, the success that we're having as a team is, in my mind, absolutely because of the cooperation and the real teamwork that Buddy and Vitor exhibit. Whether it was at Indy, now we're seeing it at each of the races we go to. I think the work they're carrying out is being honestly done. Nobody's playing games. It's truly a team. I think that's why we're running as strong as we are.

Those last 10 laps or 12 laps, whatever it was, you know, to me it was just going to be a matter of which line was going to be the quickest. Several times I thought Vitor had actually beaten Buddy across the line. But Buddy made the right call being where he was, down low, and the car worked there. Vitor tried his best. As I say, boy, 1-2, what more can you ask for?

Q: The first American to win the Indy 500 since '98, how big a deal is it to win a race on Independence Day?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. It depends on how everybody perceives it. I think it's great for us to be able to come in here and win on 4th of July weekend, being an American, knowing what it means. I think it's doubly nice or even triply nice because we finished 1-2 in the race with our team and also it was one of our main sponsor's sponsored race. I think overall, you couldn't ask for a better weekend right now. I mean, outside of what happened at the Speedway, this is huge for everyone on the team and all of our sponsors, including myself. I think everybody will look at it differently obviously depending on how you see the 4th of July.

Q: Vitor said he didn't know which driver had won. Both of your perspectives for the first couple seconds, did you know?

BUDDY RICE: Actually, I did. If I could actually see him alongside me, at that point that means I would be behind. When I didn't see him when we went past the start/finish line a little ways, I was assuming, but I felt more than likely I had won the race. If I would have been able to see his car, that means I would have won. I was checking that, not only on the back straightaway, I was watching him down the front chute, as well.

BOBBY RAHAL: We were at such a bad angle. I don't know, we were 500 yards from the start/finish line. But for the previous laps, I thought Vitor had beaten Buddy across the line, as I said earlier. From where I sat, I thought Vitor had done it. You couldn't really tell because, as I say, we were so far away. All I know is we were 1-2. All credit to Tony for doing a great job today. But, you know, as I went over to Todd Boland before the restart, I said, 'Make sure those guys don't mess with each other enough that Tony gets a look in.' 'No, no, we've talked about that. We're sure they won't.' I said, 'Yeah, but Vitor has never been in a position to win a race like this.' We joked. He goes, 'Yeah, you got a point there.'But, you know, those laps, it just came down to who had the right line, as I said. And I thought, from where we stood, Vitor had won it. But I was happy either way. I didn't care. All I know is we were 1-2.

For Buddy's championship hopes, obviously it's very important that he would have won. I'm pleased to see Vitor's 10th in the series (points standings) now after only doing a few races. Keep it going.


Part 3

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira