Michigan Indy 400 Press Conrerence July 28, 2002 Part 1 of 2 Tomas Scheckter - First Buddy Rice - Second Felipe Giaffone - Third Eddie Cheever Jr. - Team Owner Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Buddy Rice, who finished second in his...
Michigan Indy 400 Press Conrerence
July 28, 2002
Part 1 of 2
Tomas Scheckter - First
Buddy Rice - Second
Felipe Giaffone - Third
Eddie Cheever Jr. - Team Owner
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Buddy Rice, who finished second in his first IRL start. We also have Felipe Giaffone, who finished third. Your best IRL finish was second at Texas in June last year and Nazareth in April. Both of you guys had awesome cars all day. I mean, obviously, Buddy, all weekend. Giaffone, you moved up through the field all day and were fastest for most of the race. Talk a little bit about your run today.
Felipe Giaffone: Yeah, I knew it would be tough to beat those Cheever cars, you know. They did an awesome job all weekend. So what we did, we concentrate in the race, you know since the first day we got here, just work on the race setup. It seemed to work very well. That's why we didn't qualify that well; we're not very worried about the qualifying as would be 400 miles. So, I mean, was a great race. My car was just in the edge, you know, not a lot of downforce. If it would take a little more downforce, the car would be pushing and lose. So we were right there with the car. I'm really pleased with my team today.
Moderator: Buddy, your car was awesome all day also. Working with your teammates today, talk a little bit about your first race and how exciting it was.
Buddy Rice: I think it was good. You know, we had a good start and everything was just kind of happening how we wanted it to. We were out to see how we were going to work out on stops. We were out just conserving fuel, hanging out, doing our thing, just being real patient. Obviously, Felipe had a very good car. Obviously, the three of us kept checking out together, working together. It was working out quite well. Every once in a while we'd get a big group catching us up from behind, but I think we'd end up pulling back away. I basically was just waiting until the last fuel load before we were really going to start trying to go after it. We obviously had a miscue in the pits and had to back all the way up to the back. Then obviously you couldn't be patient anymore; you had to be quite aggressive to get back through the whole pack. But obviously we had a good car. I mean, I think we showed it all day, just sitting there hanging back in second and third, kind of relaxing, waiting to see how everything was going to shake out. That was our whole game plan from the start.
Moderator: You worked your way back from the pit stop. Talk about how important the draft was today.
Rice: The draft was very important. The main thing, if those guys up front on those last 30 laps would have been a little bit more sorted out, in line, it would have been much more difficult to pass. We showed that early on in the race. Everyone was running two and three abreast. That's what let myself and Scheckter and everybody get back up, keep the back clustered up, because they kept trying to run together, and everyone was just washing out, kind of grouping everybody up, slowing themselves down. When I would get a clear run, I could just run. I had been working all weekend to run on the bottom. Everybody had been running about middle to top. Our car ran on the bottom all day long. That's what we were shooting for, and that's how we had the car set up was for myself to run down there because I saw no one was down there.
Moderator: We'll take some questions from the press.
Q: Buddy, when you had to fight your way back, did you know had you chance to make a run for the finish?
Rice: I wasn't sure that we were going to be able to make it all the way back up front. It was going to be dependent on how everybody shuffled out. I mean, if it had been like it had been before, it would have been very difficult to get back to the front because everyone would have been in single file line running real hard. With everybody running together and packing up like, that it made it easier for us to catch up.
Q: Pretty good job application. Would you expect now to be keeping your seat?
Rice: It's the same thing. I'm going to go to Indy here tomorrow, just as I have been saying all weekend, and I'll sit down with Eddie and see if he has the funding and personnel and if he wants to run a third car. I mean, have to wait and see. I have no idea.
Moderator: You can all see we've been joined by Tomas Scheckter. Your owner hasn't come into the room yet. Do you want to make some statements about how awesome this race was and your first win?
Tomas Scheckter: Yeah. I was pretty irritated with what happened to me this week. I went out there with a vengeance. I pushed every lap, you know. Normally I go and say, ^ÓI'll push the last 20 laps, and I'll just stay behind.^Ô I did the opposite today. I said: ^ÓI'm going to floor it from the beginning, I'm going to give no one any room, and I'm going to do the best job I can do from Lap 1 to Lap 200,^Ô and it paid off.
Moderator: Questions for Felipe Giaffone before we bring up Eddie? Congratulations, Felipe.
Giaffone: Thank you.
Moderator: Eddie, it's kind of a bittersweet win today.
Eddie Cheever Jr.: No, it's just sweet. Very little bitter to it. The season we have, this is the sweetest thing that could have happened to us.
Q: How does it feel to be on the inside, Eddie?
Cheever: On the inside? On the inside, watching? It was very good. It was very exciting, watching the last laps.
Rice: I think tomorrow it's going to be, "Scheckter seeks new driver for Cheever Racing."
Cheever: Could be. Could be.
Moderator: We'll take some questions from the press.
Q: Pretty tough to fire him now, Eddie.
Cheever: We finally achieved what we wanted to achieve. It took us a large number of races. As a team, it was perfect execution. I get the bonehead award for the race. To watch them both charge the field at the end was very gratifying, for all of the teams, and all of the stuff that we prepared this year. It was probably one of the best drives I've seen in a race car from any category. They were behind at the end. It was superb. I think it's a great day for Red Bull. I was very glad that Tomas thanked his 52 crew that worked with him at that point because they participated in it as well as everybody else did. It was very exciting. I was looking in the stands. There wasn't one person sitting down. Everybody was standing. And it was heart-pounding, gut-wrenching open-wheel racing at its best.
Q: Eddie, obviously the Infiniti has an awful lot of power. You have shown all year long. What's going to happen now?
Cheever: Let me just address that for a second. There were a lot of Infiniti cars out there. The ones that had Red Bull on them were the ones that were going the quickest. So give our cars some credit. They were very quick around here the whole weekend. And this win, this 1?2, puts us in a very strong position for next year. Now that we've got the monkey off our back, I see no reason why it shouldn't continue for the rest of the season. Nissan makes their own decisions. We obviously sit by them.
Q: Tomas, how does it feel to finally put one together from start to finish? You always come so close. To finally finish the deal, how does it feel?
Scheckter: I can't explain to you now. It's all a little bit ?? I still feel like I'm in the middle of Turn 4, in the middle of Turn 2. I think, you know, you ask me that question in an hour or two, I'll give you my proper feelings on it. I'm on a cloud at the moment.
Q: Tomas, if you would, take us through what happened on that last pit stop when you got down to 23 seconds behind, and then when you cut through the field and got the lead with seven to go?
Scheckter: Once again, we had clutch failure, and the car was up in the air. Pushed the clutch in, engaged in the gear. Had my foot on the brake, and the car stalled. But this time, instead of Texas, we managed to get it back together. We managed to get the starter in it, restarted up immediately, and get out there. So we're giving other people a little bit of a chance, as well.
Q: Eddie, we have three cars in the race right now. When do you make the decision how long you keep the team together as a three?car team?
Cheever: Whether I run in Kentucky or not is what you're saying? (laughter)
Q: It's up to you, big guy.
Cheever: I was just fired by Scheckter. I'll go ask later if I can have my job back (laughter). The purpose of this race team is to win races, obviously. We made changes this weekend. I don't think that we won only because of those changes. But it did change the focus of our team. And it was a very, very successful weekend. It's not impossible. We will run three cars from here on out. Obviously, we'd like to now that we have a win under our belt, we might find some harmony, easier to make more progress. The cars were stunningly fast out there, both of them. I've gotten so tired of hearing about Penske and the Penske drivers. I admire them a lot, but I was really proud that our drivers dominated today. That's what we have been looking for since the beginning of the season. If we have to continue making changes, we will do that. But I wouldn't change anything right now. I would say it was almost a perfect weekend. And it was so dominant. We've been looking for that dominance from the beginning, and we've never had it. We could have had it many times. Tomas could have won four races. Bad luck, whatever conditions, whatever it was. After looking at him drive today, we could have been sitting up here with five wins. But we have one. I was talking to the general manager the other day, I said: "It's a five?race championship now. Let's see if we can win every one of the five races. That's what's left." We won the first one.