IRL: Michigan: Top-three finishers race press conference, part II

Michigan Indy 400 Press Conrerence July 28, 2002 Part 2 of 2 Tomas Scheckter - First Buddy Rice - Second Felipe Giaffone - Third Eddie Cheever Jr. - Team Owner Q: Tomas, last night you said you've never been more focused for a race. How ...

Michigan Indy 400 Press Conrerence
July 28, 2002

Part 2 of 2

Tomas Scheckter - First
Buddy Rice - Second
Felipe Giaffone - Third
Eddie Cheever Jr. - Team Owner

Q: Tomas, last night you said you've never been more focused for a race. How determined were you today to prove a point?

Scheckter: I think when I get angry, I get more focused. I was angry for a week. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and start doing push-ups thinking about the race. And that's the attitude I had. And that's why I pushed flat out the whole race. And I think I'm going to take that attitude into a lot more races now.

Q: Eddie, you say it's the first time you ever watched a race, had a lot of enjoyment. Does it make you think at the end of the year, "I own these cars," maybe try to hire these two guys to keep racing?

Cheever: I've always gone to races and looked at it from a driver's perspective for 30 years. Throughout this season with Tomas' blazing pace and determination that he has, there have been times when I've enjoyed working and watching that progress more than I have been driving. The last 30 laps today, I was looking at all the crew and all the determination. I was in the car with both the drivers. I enjoyed it immensely. It was very gratifying. I felt kind of silly in my overalls. But it was very ... it's a very, very proud moment for us as a company. This is our sixth win. I say today we had two of the strongest talents in the IRL, and all of our engineering and all of the work we've done has paid off. To answer your question, I have no idea what I'm going to do. I am 44 years old, and I've had a lot fun things in racing. I don't know if it's this year, now, tomorrow, whatever. No one has asked Buddy any questions.

Moderator: We had earlier.

Cheever: Well, I didn't hear them.

Q: Can you two now forgive and forget, bury the hatchet? It's worked. You've got your win. You have your dominance as a team owner. Can you put that behind you?

Scheckter: I think we need to sit down and speak first of all. You come to a team owner and driver. Whether he's my teammate or not, we should speak. If there's a problem in the team with whatever, whether it's personnel, racing, whatever, you need to sit down and speak it out and see, you know, how we can make it better. So maybe after everything has cooled down, Monday we can sit down and discuss some things.

Cheever: I'm not in the office on Monday. Can we do it on Tuesday?

Scheckter: I'll see about that (laughter).

Cheever: How things change after one win (laughter). Now I have to ask him for an appointment. I'll call your manager, and he'll tell me when you're available. I cannot repeat it enough times. This racing team functions on wins. We do everything we can to win. We pick the best drivers, get the best equipment, we develop race car drivers. Of course, I mean, let's say I do step down next year, can you tell me of two better drivers than these two to be driving the cars right now? After today's performance, I would say no. So absolutely, I have always had an enormous amount of respect for Tomas' talent. I hope we don't have to go through the last week we have every time finding a different reason for him to want to throttle me or strangle me or something because it's going to make it very long. But I think today, whenever you win something, especially as young as he is, it changes your focus and what you do. But that's up to him, not to me. I would be very proud to have him continue driving our cars.

Q: Was it a deliberate tactic?

Cheever: Absolutely. I wanted the best that Tomas had to offer. I don't know how he could have done a better result today, or Buddy. I want and demand and the team demands the best that everybody has to offer.

Q: Now that you have a win, can you say maybe that his methods, you think you could have won without the drama of the week?

Scheckter: I could have won without the drama of the week because it hurt me personally more than anything. I'm sitting here with a win now. You know, maybe it was right.

Cheever: We're not going to do that again, right?

Scheckter: Well.

Cheever: We're going to find a different method next time. Can we move on to a different subject? I have to call his manager for an appointment first. I'll call and tell you how the discussion goes, if you'd all like to know.

Q: Closing laps of the race, you were trying to get back up to the front. Kind of had a moment where you had to dive to the apron. Talk about that. Did you almost kind of think, "This could be the moment that determines whether I make it or not?"

Scheckter: No, because I knew the dogleg, people would start to move off a bit. I'm not sure, Giaffone had got by. I thought maybe I'd get a toe, get on the inside, then be on the inside. I managed to run a little bit lower than most people today, which gave me a little bit clean air. That's all I was planning. I probably should have gone around the outside, but there was a gap on the inside, and I took it.

Q: Buddy, this is a perfect time to bring up the fact that there was ?? the last two pit stops, there was a lot of happening. I've got to tell you, there was some of your crew that were going crazy. Sometimes people forget the fact that those guys play a very important part. Your comments?

Rice: I mean, I think the pit-stop thing was a very important part. I mean, obviously coming into the last thing we had a miscue. We were leading. We should have came in as soon as the pits opened. It would have been ?? possibly been a different outcome. It's hard to say right now. But, I mean, they play a very intricate role. I was very nervous on my pit stops today. I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to go. I didn't want to stall the car and make my own mistakes. Probably some of the best entries and best pit stops ?? I've been practicing for the last two days, obviously in Kentucky, the best ones in the race. They play a very important role. I mean, we did most of our stops under green-flag stops. We kept coming right back out right where we were at. We weren't making any spots up, but we obviously weren't losing any. That was our biggest concern, making sure I got into the pits and out of the pits without stalling it. I did my end of the deal, they did their end of the deal. We kept coming out in the same spot. Very important, especially in a 2?mile course like this. I mean, they play a very important part.

Q: Buddy, how comfortable were you the last 10 laps? You were running in a very fast pack. You were touching Tomas a little bit. How comfortable was it for you with those speeds in your first IRL race?

Rice: I was quite comfortable because Tomas and Felipe and Helio for the first half the race, all of us were running together. And I didn't have a problem then. You know, we had set up our car to run really low, and we ran low all the time. Coming up on the pack, probably for both Tomas and myself, if those guys weren't running two- and three-abreast and sliding up in front of each other, it probably would have been a lot harder to run to the front. Because they were doing that, it made it a lot easier. I didn't have any problems with it. I was hanging out for most of the race. Wasn't anticipating having to come prior from the back of pack. I highly doubt Tomas was expecting that either because we were both running up front most of the time, buying our time.

Q: Buddy, on the last pit stop, we were kind of scrambling in the press room. We missed it. Did you miss the entrance to the pit? What happened that you came in later than everyone else?

Rice: We came in a lap later because for some reason we either didn't get the call from Race Control that the pits were going open or whatever. Obviously, there's some miscue there. I mean, we were leading the race. We were going to come in our pit stop. We went out in the top three. Like I said, it could have been quite possibly a different outcome. But with the outcome, we're very happy. This is what we came to do for the Red Bull Cheever team. We still got the job accomplished we were brought in to do.

Q: Tomas, historically your father has been a man of few words. What do you think his reaction is going to be when you talk to him?

Scheckter: "About time." No, I think he'll be happy. A man of few words. I know exactly what he's going to say. He's going to say, "About time." He said it to me many times before, as well.

Moderator: Any more questions?

Q: Reaction from all of you on the interesting interloper with Sarah Fisher?

Cheever: We all knew she had Infiniti engines in it. We knew they're strong engines. TWR have made some very powerful engines. That was a special gear up she had on anybody. I was driving with her for a while. I couldn't keep up with her, regardless, you know, of my throttle position. I was kind of glad she was out there because I thought that would give Tomas and Buddy an opportunity because they were going three?wide. They had an opportunity to ?? Tomas had an opportunity to catch. If they would have gotten all in line, it would have been a lot more difficult. But they got wide, and Tomas cut through them and took them apart one at a time. I think it's very good for the series. The crowd loved it. I'm glad that she didn't win, and I'm glad that my guys did. I hope that doesn't sound wrong.

Scheckter: When you pass people at the car, they could be a girl or boy, doesn't matter. You want to get by. It's just another object in front of you. And at that stage, there were two objects, and she was one behind. I felt safe around her. Went on the inside, she didn't close the door down the dogleg. I don't mind racing her at all.

Rice: I agree with Tomas. At the point we were both in the back, all we were concerned about was getting back to the front. We knew we had strong cars and only had 30 laps to make it back up there. Didn't matter who was in front of me. We were going for it. I mean, we'd been hanging out all day. We obviously both had to be quite aggressive to get back through the field to get back to the front.

Q: Buddy, that's a pretty good debut. Are you confident now that whatever happens, you have secured your future in Indy Racing?

Rice: I wouldn't say it's secured. I don't have anything signed. I'm not guaranteed anything right now. I came out here. You know, Eddie asked me to come out here and run with him, do that. Hopefully if the funding is there, the personnel is there, they want me back, I'll be back maybe again for another race. I mean, as of right now, I mean, I'm still day?to?day. All this does is just maybe help my credibility now because the biggest excuse I keep hearing is either I don't have money or I've never been in a race. I still don't have the money. Obviously, I've shown I can race. So I'll tell all the team owners, I'll tell them the same thing: I got a helmet, I got a suit, that's about all I got. I've shown them I can run up front. Everything was tried on me today. My patience were tried. I showed I was aggressive. I made it in and out of the pits with no problems. And I thank Eddie Cheever for giving me that opportunity. So either something will happen here or something will happen in CART. I mean, my door is still open. I hope to be here Team Cheever again for next weekend at Kentucky. Maybe after this, after what I showed, you might see me here next year. Hard to say. Have to wait and see. Have a meeting in the next day or two. I guess I should ask Tomas if we're allowed to meet.

Moderator: Thank you. Congratulations.


Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Rice