2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Team Rahal: Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice, Scott Roembke, Roger Yasukawa Part 2 of 2 Q: Buddy, would you describe the difference of driving for Eddie Cheever, 500 winner, and...
2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Team Rahal: Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice, Scott Roembke, Roger Yasukawa
Part 2 of 2
Q: Buddy, would you describe the difference of driving for Eddie Cheever, 500 winner, and Bobby Rahal, 500 winner?
ROEMBKE: There you go. (Laughter)
BRACK: Without using any swear words.
RICE: To come over to such a large operation, for it to be ran the way it is, it is a big eye-opening experience right now. The way everything has been going since I was brought in, knowing the job that I had to do was to just fill the spot until Kenny was ready to come back, and the way they go about things and their tasks and the way it's ran from top to bottom I think has just been huge. To learn all the stuff that a big team does is just impressive to me. I mean, it's just a huge opportunity, and it's run completely different. I'm just trying to get used to that making sure that I can fulfill my end of the deal right now, which is just to make sure the car that runs up front. But to say the difference between driving for Eddie or Bob or something, I mean everything's different completely. Now I have a teammate that I'm filling in for right now that is also a 500 winner. So that's going to be huge for when we come back here and do our testing and running, and we'll see what happens from there. But there's always differences in everything. Personalities are completely different, and the operation is completely different.
Q: Scott, since Bobby announced that Team Rahal would run three cars at Motegi, three at Indy and two the rest of the way through the IRL season, there's been a lot of speculation about how the drivers are going to stack up. But conceivably if Kenny is back and ready for the Speedway, it could be only one substitute driver for one race at Motegi. Am I reading that right?
ROEMBKE: Yeah, I mean I think the worst thing that could happen is if we come to Indy with these three gentlemen you're looking at, that wouldn't be a bad deal for us. Certainly we're committed to running a third car at Motegi, and Kenny is not available, so we're going to have to fill that seat. We're going to do so shortly. Fortunately we've got an interest from, you know, a list of drivers who are all highly qualified. I mean, as you would expect, the motor home was a busy place in Phoenix. (Laughter) But with that said, I think any of the people we choose will come in and do a fine job. You know, all of them understand the situation. If a driver doesn't have a job at this point, he just wants the opportunity to show he can do the job. So they're not really caring if it's for one race or for two or three. So we'll identify someone here in the near future and put him in the car for Motegi. And what we've tried to do by expanding is to, as I said at the beginning, increase our flexibility so Buddy can focus on what he's doing, and Kenny doesn't feel like he's rushed. The last thing we want to do at Team Rahal is push Kenny into the seat before Kenny's ready.
KING: Scott, I know in listening to Bob on the teleconference from Sebring last week, he hedged a little bit when the question was asked about Buddy assuming a full-time seat. What is the timetable there? Because as we look at Buddy right now, he is still Kenny's substitute driver, correct?
ROEMBKE: That's the current situation.
KING: Is there a timetable?
ROEMBKE: I don't think so. I think Buddy, as he said, he knows his job right now. If Buddy keeps doing the job he's doing, then he'll be in that car for as long as it takes.
Q: Roger, understanding the political nature of both Honda and Toyota and the way the Japanese engine companies view this sport, were you really surprised when Adrian and Tom let you go last year?
YASUKAWA: Well, to some extent, yes, but we've been talking during the offseason, and I know what the team situation was. Well, basically Adrian's partner, Aguri Suzuki had his own driver that he was looking after for a while, and financially they couldn't run two cars out of Fernandez's base. And for that reason we talked, and we basically chose the best option for both ends. Fortunately, I was able to get a ride with Team Rahal for these two races. I think this is going to be a great opportunity for me. So I think it turned out to be good for both of us.
Q: But did you have a feeling last season that that might happen?
YASUKAWA: Well, a little bit toward the end of the year, we had been talking and, you know, I think as much as I wanted to stay a little bit with them, I think I've learned as much as I can from the team. You know, as for the second year, I wanted to focus on trying to win the race or at least try to finish in the top five, which I wasn't successful of doing last year. You know, as a team standpoint, I was really surprised when I went to visit Team Rahal just as a facility and the teamwork and everything is so much different from Fernandez, and I really feel that I have a better opportunity here, especially at Motegi. Last year they finished second. Also, they won the race in the past in Motegi, so the history is great there. You know, the car was strong last year here at the 500, as well. So I'm really looking forward to those two races.
Q: Phoenix used to be the track if you had the setup close, you used to say it's pretty close when you come here in the month of May. You have to run Motegi between now and then, obviously. What does that track bring to Indianapolis? What does a win at a track like that or good finish bring like that coming to Indianapolis? And that's for Buddy and Roger and Scott and whoever else wants to answer it.
RICE: I think there's a bunch of variables when we come back from Motegi, obviously for the Speedway. One, their whole package is changing. We've obviously changed chassis, and we also have an engine change coming in. So I think there are a bunch of variables that are going to happen that no one knows exactly where they're going to stack up until we have the first test and all the engine manufacturers start running. I think once again, it's going to be a learning curve from the start of the month. But you have the whole month to get a bunch of testing in which we haven't had prior to this. We've only had the four days of testing, so it's been quite trying to make sure you get -- with myself especially with the team right now, and he's working first time with I'm new to the team. The engineer came over, and he's working first time with (inaudible). We also have a new chassis, so it's taken a little bit to get everything worked out. But with expanding to a two- and three-car team, it's going to speed that all up..
Q: Do you think the test you guys are going to have here on the 6th, the first time with that 3-liter engine, that is going to be really the first chance you're going to really get a handle on the setup here?
RICE: That's the spec engine we're running, so that will be the first, yeah. There's obviously all kinds of theories and speculations exactly how fast or how slow we're going to be and how the car is going to react. Some people say it's going to be simple to go around here flat. We don't know. Obviously Honda is working very hard to do whatever they can to claw back any kind of horsepower deficit that they have made with this 3-liter change. So I think when we come in, we unload for the first day of testing, we'll just have to wait and see. But no one really knows until you actually go and run the engine.
Q: I have two questions. One for Scott. You've set up a day of testing for Roger at Phoenix. Would you most likely have your third driver there for the same tests?
ROEMBKE: We're looking at that. We're trying to organize -- the third car at Motegi is quite a reach for us. The team certainly was in place because it was getting prepared to participate in the other series. Getting the equipment done and all that in time for that test is going to be a question mark. It's the test is to clarify because the IRL does have very strict testing rules. It's a Honda using one of their manufacturer days at Phoenix. Because Roger hasn't been in a car, they're allowing Roger to go out there and get settled in, which is the right thing to do. So I don't know the answer to your question. I'd say it's doubtful, and then, you know, if we get everything done in time before the big load-up at the airport, we'll try to work with the IRL. Certainly we'd love to at least shake down the car and the driver, make sure everything works before we head across.
Q: Roger, could you talk more about your sponsorship with Sammy?
YASUKAWA: Basically Sammy makes Pachinko and slot machines in Japan, which is a fairly big market. I'm not sure if you guys are aware of Pachinko, it's like a pinball machine. They also just bought Sega, and they're going into the game entertainment, as well. They actually have office here in America, which I think they mostly do cartoon and movie stuff. So basically they're trying to become an entertainment company rather than just a Pachinko and slot machine.
Q: For Buddy and Roger, you're both coming into Indy in your second year. What kind of things are you going to try to learn from Kenny when you get in there?
RICE: Hopefully Kenny will be off his vacation here maybe. (Laughter). We'll have to wait and see. Hopefully they'll be able to give us a lot of information and help out. No, I think we have to wait and see exactly what the program is right now. Obviously, we're waiting to see what's going to happen with Kenny when he comes back. But I think the information we'll get from both Bob and Kenny, and obviously he's ran the Speedway quite a bit. So there will be a lot of information to get from there, and I think that will help boost, you know, both of our knowledge of the track and what we need to do for race day. I think also being able to come in and be competitive for the month of May will be nice, too. So we're definitely looking, I'm definitely looking forward to that, but we'll have to wait and see. That decision hasn't been made just yet.
YASUKAWA: I think same as Buddy, as long as Kenny offers me all that advice, I will take everything and fortunately this year I'm going to have two teammates, and last year I was just by myself. The team was new to the 500, as well. So everything was a lot of learning curve. Again, as I said earlier, I think this year I know what to expect. I think the team's going to help me a lot. I have a lot of experienced crew in the team, so I'm looking forward to it.
KING: Roger, could you give us an idea, I think it's difficult for American journalists to understand how important it is for Honda to win at their track, at Motegi. If a driver of Japanese heritage manages to pull that off, you're certainly going to be behind the 8-ball given the fact you haven't run yet this year, but if a driver of Japanese heritage wins that event or --
BRACK: He won't come to Indy, he'll be stuck over there. (Laughter)
KING: Give us some idea of what that race is.
YASUKAWA: Well, it certainly is a very big one for Honda, it's their home track. Unfortunately, they haven't won a race there yet, so I think they'll have a very good chance this year. Like they said, if I do win at the track, I think it will be a big thing for me. Hopefully I have a lifetime job after that. (Laughter) Hopefully I may be president of Honda, you never know. (Laughter) I think that's a little bit overboard, but even though I win, I will probably be here at the 500, and we'll see. But it certainly is a big race. I think everybody in Japan is excited. Last year, you know, it was a little bit of a chaotic race, but I think all the fans was excited about the race. They're all looking forward to see us back again next month.
Q: Scott, I know that (co-owner) Dave (Letterman) was always very supportive of the CART series. How enthusiastic or gung-ho was he on the decision that the team was coming over here exclusively?
ROEMBKE: I think Dave echoed Bobby's thoughts. At some point you just have to stop the madness that was stretching us as a team. I'm not even going to get into the political aspects. But in answer to your question, he was totally supportive. He understands what we're trying to accomplish as a team. He understands the importance of the Indianapolis 500, and he understands the growth of this series. So he was supportive of our decision, and we're ready to move on.
KING: OK, right over here.
Q: Scott, you've had to obviously adjust with Honda's interest in running a G Force this year. How much of the setup book do you need to throw out and go back to square one with the new car or how much of a challenge is that?
ROEMBKE: Actually the decision on the G Force was ours. Honda supported it, but it wasn't Honda's decision on the chassis, it was Team Rahal's decision we made just based on what we see coming and what we thought we saw coming down the road with both manufacturers. It's a different car, and Buddy said it best. We put Buddy in a pretty tough spot: He's in a new car with a new motor with a new engineer. We mixed up our engineering staff, and I think they're doing a great job. Certainly Homestead went well for us, and at Phoenix we struggled. I think at Phoenix you saw us trying to learn the car. We had two test days at Phoenix, but due to some minor mechanical things we really only ran one of them. So I think the whole Phoenix weekend we were about a day behind everybody else, and it showed. These cars in looking at the Dallara and the changes they've made, I'm not so sure we wouldn't have had to throw the book away, anyway. While they look the same, they're different. There's new aero rules coming down the pike for Indianapolis. So I think you just start learning fresh every year. Certainly that's the approach we're taking.
KING: We're going to break now for one-on-ones. Kenny, Scott, Buddy, Roger, thanks for being with us. The Chevrolet conference is next for the Pace Car, and then we're back in here at 2:00 with Tom Carnegie.