Buddy Rice looking forward to Milwaukee race Milwaukee, Wis. - Buddy Rice is a happy man. He is with a new team, making a fresh start to his career with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing after spending the last three seasons with Rahal-Letterman Racing.
In 2004, Rice signed with Rahal-Letterman Racing, taking the seat that had belonged to 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack due in part to Brack’s horrendous crash at Texas Motor Speedway in the 2003 season finale.
Seizing the opportunity, the 2004 season was a stellar year for Rice. He started on the pole and won the Indianapolis 500, arguably the world’s greatest race. He also scored four more poles and two other victories that year and finished third in the point standings.
In 2005, Rice injured his back in a practice crash at Indianapolis and was not cleared by doctors to drive in the Indy 500, thus losing his chance to compete as the defending champion. Ironically, Rice was replaced by Brack for the race, the driver he had replaced on the team.
Rice was philosophical about the situation, saying, “Things happen. You can’t do nothing about that. It’s motorsports.”
The remainder of the 2005 season, as well as the 2006 season, were somewhat frustrating for Rice as he went winless on his way to finishing 15th in points in 2005 and 13th in 2006.
When Rice signed with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the 2007 season, he knew he was working with an under funded team, but one with growth potential and good chemistry.
“I’m really enjoying it here,” the Arizona open wheel ace said. “One of the things is, Dennis (Reinbold) has worked very hard and gets a lot of credit for trying to up his team from where its been to where its going. Everybody’s driving in the same direction and I’m enjoying being here.”
It’s been good,” he said of working with teammate Sarah Fisher. “We’re able to talk and work together and make the cars better. We work together on everything and have good chemistry as teammates.”
He emphasized, however, that the team still needs more sponsorship money. “We need more sponsorship to do more development and get more personnel. We’re not a big team, a smaller to intermediate team,” Rice stated. “But I think as we progress and get better and more sponsorship dollars come in, we’ll be able to slowly expand and keep moving up the ladder.”
As for his outlook in this Sunday’s ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt 225 presented by Time Warner Cable, Rice is enthusiastic about coming to The Milwaukee Mile.
“Because it’s a short oval, it’s definitely difficult, but it has been good to me,’ he said. “In ‘04 I got second place in a shoot-out with Dario (Franchitti.) I ran up front there a lot in (Toyota) Atlantics (Series).”
Rice got noticed during his time driving in one of open wheel’s development series, the Toyota Atlantic Championship, with his 2000 Atlantic series championship serving notice which led to his IndyCar Series opportunities.
Last Sunday, Rice was running mid-pack in the Indy 500 when he was caught up in the Marco Andretti - Dan Wheldon incident that also collected Ed Carpenter. Rice was left with a 25th place finish, with rain pouring down soon after the lap 162 incident. Ironically, Rice won the last rain-shortened Indy 500 in 2004.
Despite his race ending in a crash, Rice remains optimistic about his team.
“(We’re learning) more about the car and the crew daily,” he said. “I’m looking forward to Milwaukee, and I think it’s great that the race is named for Foyt. I think it will be exciting.”
Time Warner Cable presents the June 2-3 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series race weekend at America’s Legendary Oval, with practice sessions and the 3:45 p.m. CST Road Runner High Speed Online Pole Qualifying for the IndyCar Series set for Saturday, June 2. Saturday is also race day for the emerging open wheel stars of the Indy Pro Series, with the green flag for the Road Runner 100 flying shortly after 5:00 p.m.
Sunday’s activities begin with an all-IndyCar Series driver autograph session at 9:30 a.m. CST on the fan midway. The command to start engines given by non other than A.J. Foyt himself is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, for the ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt 225 presented by Time Warner Cable.
Tickets are still available for both exciting days of action through The Milwaukee Mile ticket office by calling (414) 453-8277, or by visiting the speedway’s website, www.milwaukeemile.com.
This will be the first time in ten years, and for an unparalleled 50th time, The Milwaukee Mile follows the Indianapolis 500 on the schedule, in a return to the traditional ‘first Sunday in June’ Indy car event weekend at The Milwaukee Mile.