Buddy Rice's off-season dance card has been full. Not quite in the Helio Castroneves "Dancing with the Stars" category, but busy nonetheless.
"Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like to be home but I like to race," said Rice, whose wife, Michelle, is expecting the couple's first child (girl) in early May. "I'm privileged to drive as many different things as I am. I'm not getting any younger (turns 31 on Jan. 31). It's not necessarily reinventing myself. It's just trying to constantly stay sharp and drive a bunch of different things. As you get older, those opportunities will slowly but surely evaporate because the younger group is going to show up." Rice, who is competing in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend, also drove the Team USA "We the People" car early in the A1GP season.
"Every year I change it up a little bit; this year it was A1GP and the year before it was a lot of the sports car stuff and the year before that it was Baja as well," Rice said. "I think what I've been able to do in the past has allowed me to keep driving -- and keep having opportunities to keep driving -- and I'd like to do it as long as I can. It's been exciting to have the opportunity to do those things."
Rice is eagerly awaiting IndyCar Series testing next month on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, presumably again with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing when/if the deal is finalized. In the second half of the 2007 season, the No. 15 car posted six top-10 finishes. In the final two races, Rice advanced eight positions to finish seventh at the Raceway at Belle Isle and 10 spots to ninth on the Chicagoland Speedway oval. It's going to be exciting," Rice said of 2008 prospects. "It took us a while to build and grow, and we got more and more competitive as the year went on and we moved back up the charts. We were basically outside the top three big teams we were the next best-positioned car. And we probably had the smallest budget out of everybody. I hope we can move further up the chain. We really came on strong late in the year and I think we have the capability to follow up this year."
Rice also expects a strong effort in the Rolex 24 with teammates Darren Law and David Donohue. They will start seventh.
"Last year, we had a good shot at a win and definitely a podium," Rice said. "We had a car with the pace, and it was disappointing to see what happened (40th overall, 20th in class after being involved in an eighth-hour crash that required extensive time in the garage). I think we're in contention again, but I think this year there are a lot more cars in contention. A lot of people really stepped up their game."
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