IRL: Kansas: Top-three finishers press conference, part 3

Indy Racing League Argent Mortgage Indy 300 Top Three Transcript July 4, 2004 Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, Vitor Meira, Tony Kanaan Part 3 of 3 MODERATOR: Bobby, the last time Team Rahal finished 1-2 was in Germany at a Champ Car event in ...

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

Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, Vitor Meira, Tony Kanaan

Part 3 of 3

MODERATOR: Bobby, the last time Team Rahal finished 1-2 was in Germany at a Champ Car event in September 2001 with Kenny Brack and Max Papis. Can you comment on that?

BOBBY RAHAL: Somebody said, you know, I guess you had one or a couple. We joke about the Golden Rule No. 2 is don't hit each other. At Michigan in 2001, I think it was, Max and Kenny were the clear dominant team in the race, and they took each other out about 8 or 10 laps to go. I never took anything for granted.

As I say, these guys, I thought today as a whole, to hear Vitor talk a little bit about it, the respect level seemed to go up a notch today amongst all those guys out there, from what I could see. I wasn't in a car, so maybe I didn't see it all. But I think that's why we were able to run so many laps under green. That's just a testament to these guys, to the job they did.

If those 10 laps are side-by-side, I really wasn't too worried about them getting into one another.

Q: Buddy, can you talk about how mentally exhausting those last 10 laps were? How did they feel for you?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, no, not for me. It was okay. I mean, as you come up through the lower ranks from go-karting to the other open-wheel formulas and stuff, you're constantly getting prepared for that and groomed for that. It's no different than, you know, other professional sports where they have minor leagues and stuff like that. For me, no. I mean, I think everybody in this day and age right now, they have so much experience coming up here. But for me, no, it wasn't a big issue.

Q: Would this have been possible if you hadn't decided to bring both teams over to the IRL?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, first, about Tony, I appreciate Tony's comments, but I don't believe anything he says (laughter). We've got to earn this. The Andretti Green team is an extremely good team. You know, Tony has been tough to beat on a lot of occasions this year. I think he was right. I think both our teams now are kind of pushing each other. Maybe the champion will come from one of these two teams. But there's a lot of racing yet to go. We've got our heads down and we'll see who's there at the end of the year.

To answer the other part of the question, there is no doubt in my mind, and I think this is just vindication for the decision that Scott (Roembke) and I made, and David (Letterman), you know, which was to consolidate our resources. There is no way we would have won Indy with one car. This series is too difficult, it's too close, and you have to have two guys like Buddy and Vitor working very, very hard in order to maximize the potentials out there. So absolutely making the move was the right move for our team. As I say, I think the success we're having is a reflection of that.

Q: Talk about how your confidence has grown. You used to be the fill-in driver.

BUDDY RICE: I think -- I mean, yeah, when I was brought to fill in for Kenny (Brack), it was some pretty big shoes to fill. It was going to be something I made sure I stepped on. But also I think the biggest thing is I was finally able to come to a team that was competitive and to give me a chance to win and to run up front. I think that's what's been one of the big differences. You come to a top-rated team, a powerhouse team like that, now all of a sudden you're competitive. It's just been a huge boost for everyone. You know, I think that's the biggest thing that's happened.

I haven't changed my approach since the start of the season, and it's not going to change any time soon. It's been the same for the past couple years. I don't ever change that. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. We'll keep trudging along. We are here for the long haul, we are here for the championship, and we are in points contention.

Q: Buddy, has your life changed since you've won the 500?

BUDDY RICE: Obviously, my media appearances and my face is plush everywhere, so that's definitely been a change (laughter). I probably get a couple more little perks and stuff. Other than that for myself, no I haven't changed. I don't plan on changing. I didn't go home and sell my truck, I didn't go home and --

BOBBY RAHAL: He's in a higher tax bracket now, though (laughter).

BUDDY RICE: But, I mean, I think -- obviously, there's some obvious things that you can't control. Yeah, it is different. I guess when I said that it's not going to change my life, I meant personally I'm not going to change my approach, how I go about things or the way I dress or what I do.

BOBBY RAHAL: After Indy, he turned into a Republican (laughter).

BUDDY RICE: I mean, for that stuff, it's never changed, and it's not going to change. That's the way my old man brought me up. That's the way we were raised. It's not going to happen.

Q: (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I waved to him one time down the back straightaway. (Laughter).

No, I mean, doesn't matter who's running beside you, you're going to be able to see the guy running next to me. You're glancing at him to see where he's going, where he's stronger, what he's doing, where he's weaker at. What I think it does do is it makes it a little easier when it's your teammate because you don't have to worry about something freaky happening or anything like that.

I think, like Bob had said, I believe before I showed up, Tony had said it, the race was green for so long. There was so much -- everyone paid such good attention. I think also what helped is this is a lot of a handling track, everyone is kind of spread out. I do feel when teammates are beside you, it's definitely a little easier or a little more relaxing because you know of the person that is beside you.

It was good.

Q: (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I could see him through the visor.

Q: What from the inside line gave your car the advantage?

BUDDY RICE: Basically it's the shortest distance around the track. No different than when you see us qualifying. The same, no one goes out to the wall, down to the bottom side and back out like we used to. The way the rules are, the tracks are designed, the way the cars are, the shortest distance around is usually the fastest. It just happened to be that way today. Sometimes there were times in the past when you could get a run on the outside, and to make the run on the outside would be quicker. But I think with some of the rule changes, it's making the bottom on a lot of these circuits more of a premium than it was in the past.

I know from two years ago and also a little bit last year, Hornish used to use the high line all the time to get by and make his final pass. But I think there's been a rules change this year. Also with the 3.0-liter engine it's made a bit of a difference that the bottom line is much more of a premium line to have.

Q: What was it like to drive in such a clean race?

BUDDY RICE: I think it was actually -- it's to our benefit at Rahal Letterman because of how strong our cars were. It allowed us to do our own things. Even when I was running third or fourth with Scheckter, Vitor had a good run, he got hooked up there for a little bit, got in front, was driving away. It was good to see him be able to break free of Tony and make a run on his own. I think sometimes it's a bit easier, instead of getting blocked in and pinning you on somewhere you didn't want to be. It played into our hands for sure.

Even though, I mean, this wasn't maybe necessarily such a fuel-strategy race, I think it also helped us on that, as well, especially to have the Honda power.

Q: Does this mean another appearance on Letterman?

BUDDY RICE: We'll have to see. Dave's schedule is pretty busy. We'll leave that up to him.

Q: Bobby, as a former driver, winner, champion, is there a lot of satisfaction owning a team and you've put together a winning, championship team?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think what makes this year so satisfying is, you know, the kind of year we had last year. I don't mean just what happened at the end of the year with Kenny (Brack), which obviously kind of put an exclamation mark on a very bad season, I felt, very dissatisfying season. Thankfully Kenny has come back. But at the end of last year, there was a lot of soul searching because we've won championships, we've won a lot of races, the CART series over the years on ovals and road courses. To have the kind of year we had last year was very, very disappointing for me. So we made a lot of changes - the chassis, moved some people around, consolidated our efforts into one series in the Indy Racing League. Right now we look pretty smart, I guess. More than anything, it makes me proud to see that the people that we put in new positions - whether it was Buddy coming on board or engineers moving, Vitor coming in - that's it's all working. So for me the satisfaction is to see the turnaround. It's obviously great to win races. I mean, that's easy to say. Who doesn't enjoy that? But for me personally, it's how the team has, in this restructuring, how it's come together and has the kind of success it's having. That's the very satisfying part for me. Of course, you know, I take special pleasure with my friend here next to me, who I always felt could do it. We never really had the opportunity for him. Then it came up. You know, a lot of guys get opportunities and don't take advantage of them. This guy came in, hit the ground running. There was no question that much of the success at Rahal Letterman this year is due to Buddy being on board. With Vitor coming in, I think it adds a one-two punch. Really, we got two great young guys, as I said earlier, who work very, very closely together. The results are a reflection of that. That's where I derive my satisfaction from. It's not the same as winning a race personally, to be sure, but it's just as rewarding, but in a different sort of way.

Q: Tony basically said you and Vitor both had him covered, but he was complaining about going through traffic early in the race. In the lead as much as you were, did you have any problems going through the field?

BUDDY RICE: Definitely when Tony was out in front. Probably a little bit of the problem he had, he was struggling a little bit. He definitely got hosed a couple times with back markers. I did late in the race. One time I was leading, there were two guys side-by-side for I don't know how many laps in front of me. Basically they kept proceeding to run side-by-side the whole time. It's the same thing I got at Indy. I had a little bit of a break because I got through it a little bit cleaner than what Tony did, and it gave me a distance. That's when I had that one big gap there. Tony, too. I got through it, and he ended up -- I forget who I passed, but he ended up getting chopped a little bit. It broke us apart finally. He was only five to eight car lengths back. He was close. I could see him in the mirrors.

You're going to run into those problems. Not all the time is it the driver that you're lapping's fault. Sometimes it's because the car is not set up right and you're struggling. He's doing everything he can, harder than we are, to drive. It just happens. It's definitely a timing issue. The stronger your car is, the easier it is for you to get through traffic, as well.

Q: Bobby, what was it like for you to have them travel side-by-side in the last laps?

BOBBY RAHAL: I wasn't nervous about them. I just wanted to make sure the things ran till the end. I felt like if things kept running, one of them was going to win. You know, I never like it when people come up and say, 'Oh, you're looking good.' 'Wow, there's a long way to go yet. We're not going to celebrate at all.' Yeah, I mean, then there's Tony lurking in the background. I mean, I don't think you can ever count him out. But, as I say, we could tell he was struggling in traffic a little bit. With Vitor and Buddy running side-by-side, that didn't give him much of a chance really. But, no, I mean, I just wanted to make sure everything ran till the end. That was my only concern.

MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Congratulations.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira