IRL: Team Rahal teleconference, part 2

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript January 13, 2004 Bobby Rahal, Scott Roembke, Buddy Rice, Kenny Brack Part 2 of 3 Q: When you sit down and talk to sponsors, do they have any favorite, whether they'd like to be in sports...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
January 13, 2004

Bobby Rahal, Scott Roembke, Buddy Rice, Kenny Brack

Part 2 of 3

Q: When you sit down and talk to sponsors, do they have any favorite, whether they'd like to be in sports cars or in open-wheel?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, of course, a lot of it's based on television, a lot of it's based on where it is. You know, without question, the Indy 500, irrespective of how little you might know about racing, that's known by everybody. And that's a powerful tool for us to use in selling our IndyCar program. Having said that, I think it's a very different audience. I think there are companies that are probably inclined more towards sports car racing because of the demographics than they might be towards open-wheel racing. It's just a matter of, really for us, determining whether there's interest in companies like that to go forward. But when you're associated with names like Ferrari or Aston Martin, even the new Corvette or what have you; those are pretty powerful symbols and icons. Some companies want to be associated with those kinds of icons.

Q: Bobby, you've had opinions about where open-wheel racing has been going the past few years. Did the things that happened with CART have to happen for the open-wheel business model, so to speak, for it to get back to where it was before when it was thriving, and the Indy 500 still had its luster?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I don't think anybody would have wished what's happened over the last several years. You know, certainly Honda and Toyota leaving CART and going to the Indy Racing League was a big blow to CART because that took a lot of teams and cars with it. I don't think anybody would wish that on anybody. But I think clearly there was a large dissatisfaction with the way CART was governed for many years by key players. (Roger) Penske, people like that. That probably, you know, as I said earlier in the teleconference, with Tony and Brian, you know where the buck stops. They're going to do what's right for their series as they see it. I think if there's a plan, then most of the entities out there, Honda, Toyota, anybody, Chevrolet for that matter, are comfortable with the changes as they come down. I don't think there's any doubt that the fractious nature of the governance of CART, not in the last year certainly, but the last 10 years, did much to undermine its future.

Q: Do you see any particular irony in how CART, which evolved from the old USAC days and everything, how that evolved from that, then how IRL evolved from that because of dissatisfaction, now it seems to be coming back to where it was before?

BOBBY RAHAL: I think certainly there were a lot of people that felt wronged by CART, and perhaps saw an opportunity to create something new in the beginning with the Indy Racing League. But I certainly don't see much evidence of that anymore. I think certainly, you know, all credit goes to Tony. He's stood up under a lot of pressure, criticism. I went to a number of the races last year, you look they crowds. I don't care if it's part of a ticket buyer or not, people still have to come out and watch it. Pretty impressive crowds at a lot of these circuits. You can't deny the racing how exciting it is. But I do think that all the USAC, CART, this, that, the sooner that's all put away the better for everybody, and the better for open-wheel racing.

Q: Buddy Rice, are you looking at this as sort of a new lease on life, the way your 2003 ended and stuff, just sort of how are you approaching this opportunity?

BUDDY RICE: It's an excellent opportunity. But it's just like what I said before. I'm in substituting for Kenny Brack. I got to make sure that I take care of the car and make sure that we get the Team Rahal car up front and take care of keeping the sponsors happy and everything the way it's supposed to be. The main objective right here is just to go out and do the best job I can and make sure I keep the car up front and win races. What happens after that will happen. That's where we're at with the whole situation.

Q: Bobby, your so-called CART team is in limbo right now. How long can it stay in limbo with all the stuff you're reading, you're hearing today where the IRL might be bidding on some of the CART assets, some of its races? How in limbo is that side of things right now?

BOBBY RAHAL: It's very much uncertain, without any doubt, particularly when you look at here it is mid-January. Obviously, everybody has their cars and everything. The biggest problem is here you have a lot of people on a payroll. What do you do if it doesn't work out? In the meantime, you've been supporting the team on the presumption that it was. I think there's no question that the unknown is not good for CART. Thankfully, we have our strong programs in IndyCar and of course the Atlantic program is much stronger this year. So there's a lot going on with us. Without doubt, the sooner there's some clarity to what's going on, the better for all parties.

Q: If, in fact, the IRL was to purchase some of the assets, including maybe the rights to a few of these races in CART, I don't know if they would go ahead and run this year or not, but would you have any intention at all of running Michel Jourdain in the IRL series?

BOBBY RAHAL: Let me make clear, the reason Michel Jourdain is in CART is because of Gigante. The races in Mexico are very important to Gigante. As I said, maybe even a year or two ago when we went into the IRL there was some criticism. I can't be presumptuous enough to tell our sponsors where I think they should be. They're going to go where they feel their customers are. That's why we're in CART with Michel Jourdain. If that didn't pan out, if CART didn't have a series, whatever they want to call it, open-wheel racing didn't have a series, we would do everything we could to convince Gigante to make the switch. But, right now, they're happy to be in CART. As I say, until there's more clarity to what's going on, that's where I believe we'll be. But certainly Michel has proven his mettle on high-speed ovals. He almost won Michigan, what, a year or two ago. And with us last year in Fontana, I think he was in even a stronger position than Jimmy, two years ago. Unfortunately, the engine broke. But Michel has proven his worth I think on ovals.

Q: As a driver and as what I call an owner/driver because of the way you relate with your drivers, how difficult has it been to see Kenny rehabbing and sitting on the sidelines after that accident?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I still say when you look at the severity of that accident; it's only I think by the grace of God that Kenny is still with us. You know, I've always had nothing but the highest regard for Kenny. I was very upset when he got hurt, but his recovery, even with all the glitches, has been I think extraordinary. You know, he's still got that drive. I mean, one of the things I always respected, maybe the biggest thing I respected about Kenny was the way he approached his racing or his work. You talk work ethic, what have you, I don't know if I've ever seen anybody with it for the same degree. So naturally for us, we don't necessarily like the situation we're in with Kenny being hurt. But at least he's recovering. We presume that he'll be back with us driving sometime during this year. But I've been in racing long enough to know that incidents do happen. I just think we're fortunate to have Buddy join us. I believed enough in him several years ago to have him under contract as an alternate in case one of our guys was sick or what have you. I'm just glad we're able to finally get it done. I think he's got a lot to prove, and that's good. Young guys should have a lot to prove. They should want to go out and show the world how good they are. We have to adapt. We have to prepare. We have sponsors that we're obligated to give them our best effort. I think, yes, it's a shame that Kenny got hurt. But thankfully he's recovering. And at least we have to guy of Buddy's caliber to step into the breach.

Q: Best possible business scenario. What is best for open-wheel racing: the two separate series or this merger of the IRL and what is left of CART?

BOBBY RAHAL: I think it's pretty obvious two separate series don't make it. There's X amount of dollars. If there's one series, there's probably minimally eight more cars, 10 more cars immediately in the Indy Racing League. Also, you have 20-car fields, 30-car fields. That's precisely what it needs. Conversely, if CART was stronger, the idea of 18-car fields, I think you can try to explain or spin that away as much as you want, but the reality is the more cars the better. So I definitely think there needs to be one series with all marketing efforts, all organizational effort dedicated to that one program. I mean, I think it's a shame that the situation exists as it does with CART. I know there's been a lot of genuine effort to try to take it to the next level. But at some point I really wonder if it's just time for everybody -- if it's opportunistic for everybody to finally get behind one deal and make it the best possible series in the United States.

MODERATOR: Kenny has joined us now. Scott as well. We'll move on to Kenny Brack. Kenny suffered multiple fractures in the season-ending race at Texas Motor Speedway in October of last year, and has been recovering in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, since the crash. Kenny, the first question is how are you feeling after several months of recovery?

KENNY BRACK: Hi there. Happy New Year to everybody. I'm getting better and better by the day. Obviously, as soon as I got out of the hospital bed, got home, that's when the recovery really started. I think you can see several hundred percent difference in the last month already in my energy level and mobility and everything. So it's going pretty good actually.

MODERATOR: Recently, Kenny, you and your wife Anita welcomed a baby girl named Karma. Tell us about becoming a father for the first time.

KENNY BRACK: Yeah, that' exciting. You know, we were both in the hospital at the same time because I was in there for surgery at the same time. So it was good, I guess, to be in the same hospital at least. But it's exciting, you know. It's a new little thing that's arrived to this world. It's something that's fantastic. But right now, you know, they sleep and eat at this age. They don't too many bad things around the house anyway.

MODERATOR: Kenny, we talked to Bobby a little bit about this, but to start the season coming up next month, then in Miami, Phoenix in March, Japan in April, are you going to be with the team still in a consultant role? Are you still going to be at the racetrack as you continue your recovery?

KENNY BRACK: I hope so. I hope I can be as much help as possible. I still like racing a lot. I still like the team. When I came back to Team Rahal, it wasn't just to drive a few races; it was for a long-term commitment. It was for making this effort succeed in this tough competition as it is. As much as I can help there, I will. We'll see what role that will be here in the beginning. But, you know, like I say, whatever I can do to help, I will.

MODERATOR: Give us a status of your injuries, if you will. Seems like over the months we listen to how now you are sitting up, walking. Where are you at? Are you walking? What are you doing on a daily basis?

KENNY BRACK: Right now, I would say that I'm healed back so I can do normal things, except my right ankle isn't healed up completely yet. We're waiting for the last X-rays, which will be in a couple of weeks' time, until the doctors will let me weight bear on the right ankle. Once I can weight-bear on the right leg, I will be walking like anybody else that has got two legs and no injuries. But right now I'm walking on crutches, using my left leg. I don't use any braces anymore for the back or any other part except for the right ankle where I have a little sort of (stabilizer) shoe around just to keep it in a good position since I can't use the actual foot. That's where I'm at really right now.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Kenny. We'll open it up for questions now.

Q: When was Karma born?

KENNY BRACK: She was born on the 31st of December, 6:30 in the evening. New Year's baby.

Q: When you think about getting back in the race car, No. 1, how anxious are you? Is part of being anxious, if you are anxious to get back in the car, which you probably are, is it to get that first ride out of the way to say, "All right, I got to prove to myself I can do this again?"

KENNY BRACK: No, not really. I don't think I have doubts in my mind. I can do it again. It's something rather that I've always done. I've always lived with racing. I love the sport. Yeah, I've always also known that it has risks and stuff can happen times. You know, this is what I've been doing successfully in the past, and that's what I want to do successfully for a while longer really. I still think that I'm very competitive on the track. You know, it's my life basically. I just want to try to get back into that position. And when you ask how soon do I want, I wanted that yesterday. But, you know, I got to wait until my bones are completely healed and I feel completely a hundred percent healed back up. I mean, it's no point kidding yourself or anybody else getting in a car when you're not healed up or feel 100 percent for it. You kid yourself, you might have another bad wreck or you're not going to do the team any good. So you got to consider all those things. I'll wait until that happens. But hopefully that will happen so

Q: Is there any way that you can keep your skills honed to be better prepared? I guess I'm talking past the rehab point of being in shape, hand-eye coordination kind of thing.

KENNY BRACK: No, there's nothing I can do right now to really, you know, on the driving side. Basically you hone those skills when you race, test and drive the car. The rest of it is physical activity and mental training, all that kind of stuff, which I'm doing on a daily basis through rehab and other various things. That's all I can do right now.

Part 3

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Michel Jourdain