Team Rahal press
Rahal, Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice
May 18, 2005
MODERATOR: Good morning.
We'll get started right away because this team has a lot of work
yet to do today.
There is not a team in the Gasoline Alley garage area that has
made more headlines this month than the team that's sitting up
here right now. Most of the headlines I'm sure they wanted; some
of the others unfortunately they did not. But they have been the
team this year as the defending winning team. They came in with
already a lot of attention.
They have another announcement here to make this morning. Here
to do that is Bobby Rahal.
BOBBY RAHAL: Thank you. Well, I guess, no surprise, we are very
disappointed in finding out that Buddy would not be cleared, and
we understand fully why. Certainly we support the doctors'
decision, and we feel very badly for Buddy. As a driver, you
know what it means to get your focus, you dream of winning this
race, let alone winning it again or repeating it. I know he's
extremely disappointed and we're disappointed for him. However,
we had to go forward.
I just thought it's somehow right that I called my friend Mr.
Brack up and asked if he'd be ready to fill in. The obvious sign
is that he was ready to fill in. We're very anxious and excited
to have Kenny back driving our car. I think that was one of the
key factors, was we wanted to have someone come in who would be
as competitive as Buddy, who had experience with our team
before, and who we felt would work with the other two drivers,
Danica and Vitor, in making sure we had three equally
competitive cars come Race Day.
I'm very pleased to welcome Kenny back in the fold. As I say,
the circumstances aren't necessarily the best for any of us, but
I know he'll do a great job for us. Thank you.
MODERATOR: We'll get a short comment from Buddy and Kenny, then
we'll open it up for questions from the media.
Buddy, you've been a great champion for the Indianapolis 500.
You can sense the frustration in your statement yesterday. Just
talk about the decision-making process, what you'll be doing the
rest of the month.
BUDDY RICE: Well, the decision, I mean, it was made the other
day with the doctors, what we had to go through. We knew what,
you know, the circumstances were. They knew there was a fairly
substantial hit, but at the time obviously we didn't think it
was going to come out this way.
I couldn't think of someone that was more deserving and couldn't
think of a better person to put in the car. Because I had to
come in on I guess adverse situations, when I had to take in -
when Kenny had his crash and I had to fill in, I couldn't be
happier to actually see him be able to come back here and hop in
a competitive car. Granted, he's not going to start where he
wants to, but I don't think it will take him very long to get up
to speed, and he'll be in a car that will give him another shot
at trying to win the Indy 500 again.
It was extremely difficult last year to come in. He was a huge
supporter. He was there all year. He was a big help to
everything that happened last year. So I'm extremely happy that
he's in the car, gets another shot.
I'm not going anywhere for the month. I'll be here all month
long to do whatever I can to help the team out. Hopefully at the
end of the month I'll get cleared and we'll get back at Texas,
cruising back along like we're supposed to do.
For right now, we need to do what's best for the team, what's
best for the other two drivers and all of our sponsors, and
that's to put Kenny in the seat. I'm extremely happy for him.
MODERATOR: It's time to welcome back the 1999 winner of the
Indianapolis 500. Kenny, your initial comments on your return.
BRACK: Well, I got a little surprise when I had the call, I must
say, because, you know, I followed - I followed the 500 from
home. But I thought Buddy would be OK. You know, I really did
think he was going to drive. Monday night I got the call from
You know, I got to thank the team because I've been with this
team for a long time. They've been very supportive to me. It
feels like, although I haven't driven for them this year, I
never really left, because we're still going out to lunches, I
mean, the workshop and stuff like that. That was a big part of
this decision to fill for Buddy.
For me, I feel ready. But, you know, to come into this situation
like this is obviously a little more challenging than being
around for the whole month and all that. But I felt that knowing
the team and knowing the players here and we've done great
things together, it's a lot more easy.
I feel sorry for Buddy. Of course, I kind of know how he feels
like about this. But luckily he's not going to be out for very
long. I'm going to try to do a good job for him in this
situation, and for the team. So I want to thank Bobby, of
course, and Dave Letterman, Scott Roembke, all the guys at the
team for passing this opportunity.
MODERATOR: We will open it up for questions from the media.
Q: Kenny, can you just talk a little bit about your physical
situation. I know you tested in a car in Richmond last year, you
weren't too thrilled about it. How do you feel now as far as
BRACK: Well, I mean, I was quite fast actually. We were only
1/10th off the lap record, so I think that was pretty good. But
I didn't feel that I was physically fit to drive the Richmond
race because that's one of the most physical races. That was
obviously only five, six - well, six months when I got out of
the hospital and started my rehab program. When I got out of the
hospital, I was in a wheelchair, so you can imagine what a
strain that was.
Now it's one and a half years later. I've been working out very
hard. I'm back to the same physical condition as I was before
the crash because I have been basically pounding myself in the
gym ever since I got out of the hospital. So I feel physically
Q: Buddy, all the highs that you've experienced in the year
since you left here, after winning the race last year, can you
maybe take us back to that minute that Dr. Bock looked you in
the eye and said, "I'm sorry, you're not going to be able to
race," what your emotions were at that time.
RICE: Well, the first question, I mean, the first question was:
Is there anything we can do to speed this recovery up or make it
happen, maybe not necessarily to come back for the Speedway but
even to get ready for Texas? With whatever the situation was,
that's just - you know, we've discussed that. We know what we
have to do to get prepared for Texas.
But, I mean, I guess my first thought was, it's a huge letdown
to the team and all the sponsors. That's my first concern. I
mean, those people are the ones that helped me get to where I
was at. They gave me the mark last year of winning the 500. That
was the first thing I thought of.
To not be able to come back and defend, especially when you know
the car is sitting in there, it's capable of sitting on the
front row if not the pole again, and it's a car that's capable
of winning. There's two other cars sitting in that same stable
that can do the same thing. So hopefully it's just, you know, we
keep it in-house, we keep it in the family, and it all works.
But it's just extremely disappointing. There's not a whole lot
more you can do about it. It's just the way it is.
Q: Kenny, is it a tad surreal to be sitting there in that suit
sliding back into the 15 car, racing in the 500 this year?
BRACK: Well, you know, I don't think a Hollywood film producer
could have come up with a script better than this one. I really
- you know, having Buddy replace me and then be coming back to
replace him, yeah, it's a little strange.
But, you know, like I said, I believe that it happened for a
reason perhaps, and we'll see how it goes. But I think that,
like Buddy says, the car is obviously very fast, the team is
great. These are the guys that I used to work with, you know,
with Team Rahal for years. I feel very comfortable in this
situation, although coming in a little late. But I already know
the team very well. You know, it should be - that part of it
should be fine.
Q: Kenny, I'm wondering if this hadn't happened, how close were
you to getting in a car, driving on a regular basis right now?
BRACK: Well, in IndyCars, not that close, because I tried in the
beginning of the year to look at options to go to the 500. But
it had to be a competitive situation, something I believed had
one of the - a shot to win the race. It would be no point for me
coming back unless I felt I was in a situation where I could be
really competitive. Unfortunately, there was none out there at
I wasn't really, you know, counting on anything. I don't know,
like I said, this thing happened. Had this happened with another
team that I wouldn't have known, I probably wouldn't have been
here because I want to feel that I have a really - an
opportunity to do well.
And I feel with all the pieces, although I come in late, but
with Team Rahal, with Bobby, Dave and Scott and all the guys,
and plus Buddy here, he said he was going to help me, you know,
tell me how he did it last year (laughter), I feel like there's
a lot of things here that are really, really good. That's the
way it happened. So here I am.
Had it not happened, I wouldn't have been here. Would I have had
a ride for the rest the season? Probably not. I don't think I
will in this situation, either, but maybe I would have raced
something else, who knows.
Q: Kenny, if you could talk about what could happen beyond this
race, I mean, what kind of opportunities opened up for you now.
And, Bobby, talk about any consideration to expanding this team
to a four-car effort.
BRACK: Well, from my part, I think we're going to look at this
as I'm here to do the best job I can for my friends at Team
Rahal Letterman. That's the thing we will do.
And for the future, you know, just like this situation, I don't
think you can predict the future. But that's the situation right
now. I'm sure Buddy will come back here, you know, after Indy,
and I will wish him all the best to go on and try to win races
in the championship.
RAHAL: I think in terms of the team, I don't think we're in a
position to run four cars. But I think we'll reserve judgment
and we'll - we've got a pretty big job to do from now till the
end of this month. We'll see what happens after that.
I think as a team, we have to make sure that Buddy gets back to
health ASAP so that he is ready for Texas, and we have to make
sure that we give maximum effort to Kenny, Danica and Vitor. You
know, we'll see what happens after Memorial Day. Running four
cars, I'm not sure that's in our - that's in the cards, as they
say, but we'll see.
Q: Bob, you came here with three cars ready to go. Any key
personnel switches because of this situation?
RAHAL: No, no, nothing.
Q: If Kenny is not in physical shape he probably is but if for
some reason he isn't, do you have a backup plan?
RAHAL: Then I'm going to qualify if he doesn't (laughter).
That's how likely it will be that he won't be able to do the
job. I'm pretty confident to say I'll come out of retirement if
that's the case, so you better - this isn't April Fools
No, I mean, I think - I know Kenny. As Kenny was saying, we
spend time together. He and Scotty spend a lot of time together
back in Columbus having lunch and talking about things. We
talked about trying to put together an effort earlier this year
Kenny is all business always has been and I think always will
be. A, I know he wouldn't - if he wasn't ready for this, he
wouldn't be here. And I am completely confident that he'll get
in that car and there will be a little bit of rust in the seat
when he gets out after the first hour, but it will be gone. It's
up to us as a team to make sure that we give him - you know, we
make it as easy and speedy as possible for him to do that.
Yeah, I think we're pretty confident that he'll be there on Race
Q: Bob, your team has been at the center of attention for the
last couple weeks. I'm sure it's been a very emotional time. How
have you and Scott Roembke kept everyone focused and motivated
in a tough time?
RAHAL: I was going to say, there's been some good ways we've
garnered some publicity and some not necessarily good ways. You
know, I think it has been demanding on everybody, but I think
we've tried to organize it. I know Scott and I probably haven't
been the most popular with Tom Blattler or Brent (Maurer) in
terms of trying to create some sense of discipline and schedule,
especially for Danica. Poor Vitor, he's had a pretty easy month
I mean, you know, you've just got to be prepared. I think the
guys, the engineers, everybody, you know, for them to stay
focused I think has been not easy, but I think everybody's just
- you know, they understand what the job is at hand.
While we didn't have quite the publicity last year that we've
had this year, I think that we're still managing to handle it
all and to go forward. And I look forward to the next several
days, both for Kenny and also for Danica and Vitor, as we
further develop race setups and what have you.
Q: Kenny, what is your wife's reaction and friends, family? Are
they supportive? Are they a little tentative?
BRACK: Well, I mean, I haven't really talked to a lot of my
friends because, you know, you've been busy with putting this
thing, you know, making seats and stuff. I haven't had that much
But my wife is supportive of the decision. She's always standing
behind. She knows I'm a racer, and she knows that I've always
wanted to come back to this kind of racing if there would be a
competitive opportunity out there. So I don't think it was a
complete surprise, although, you know, she might have gotten
used to the fact that I wasn't doing this kind of stuff any
But, you know, like I said, this happened for a reason, I
believe. I know the team is very, very good, and they've got all
the right stuff, the Honda engine. Honda has been very
supportive of this decision and everybody. So I feel very
comfortable about this. I think she feels that it's the right
Q: Bob, did you consider anybody else before you called Kenny?
Were there any other drivers in your thoughts or it was just a
matter of this is the guy I'm going to go with right away? How
does the Indianapolis 500 compare to other races as far as
RAHAL: On the part that I can answer, Kenny was our first
choice. There were certainly other people that we thought of,
but those people were only thought of in terms of following his
answer. He was No. 1 in our minds.
BRACK: Well, from my perspective, I think that - physically, I
don't think it's one of the most physically demanding races,
although it's a long race, so you've got to be very
well-prepared. But mentally it's a tough one. I mean, it's a
long race, and there's a lot of things that happens from day to
day, the car change, setup changes, weather changes. So it's
physically very draining. That gets to you physically after a
while because you feel very tired.
For me in this situation, it might be a little extra mental
because, obviously, coming into this, not having driven for a
while, you got to get your game face on. But I feel confident in
this situation, like I said. That's my take on it.
Q: Kenny, you have remained living in Columbus all the way
through. How fast did you say yes Monday night?
BRACK: Well, you know, I was joking -
RAHAL: Kenny only drives fast (laughter).
BRACK: I was joking with these guys, saying here I am sitting at
home with a margarita in one hand, then they call (laughter).
I made quite a quick decision. Obviously, you can look at this
in many different ways. But, you know, in the end you've got to
do what's right in your heart, what you feel doing, and this is
what I feel doing. And I believe that this all happens for
reasons. I don't know why. It's kind of a twisted little thing,
I don't know.
Q: Kenny, there was always the sense that you'd come back to
racing in some capacity. Did you have a timetable in mind about
when you would return here? Did you ever think about how long it
BRACK: I think when you get injured, I think that it's your
natural instinct to want to get back a little sooner than you
probably can. I think when I did the test in Richmond last year,
I guess I might have thought I was ready, and I wasn't
physically fit at that time. But I have been working
relentlessly in the gym and workouts and stuff like that.
Obviously, I didn't need to do that just to be back walking the
streets like a private person. I did it because I wanted to get
back in race trim. Even if I didn't have a ride, I really want
to get back to that kind of fitness.
I guess had this opportunity came about, and I wouldn't have
done all that work, I couldn't have done it because I wouldn't
have been fit enough, and I feel I am fit enough.
MODERATOR: The team has informed us that they will make Kenny
available this afternoon after he has turned in some laps. We'll
get that information out. Last question for Kenny and then we
will release him.
Q: Kenny, have you had time to do your reporting duties back to
Sweden like you usually do?
BRACK: No, I haven't had time to do anything. The only thing
right now for me is to focus on what I need to be doing here.
The rest of the stuff will have to take care of itself. I'm sure
Q: Buddy, how tough is it to be a cheerleader?
RICE: I mean, it's not the easiest thing. It's like I said
earlier, it's what is best for the team, best for the other two
drivers, it's what is best for our sponsors. Hopefully I'll be
more than just a cheerleader. Hopefully I'll be some sort of a
participant within the group. We'll just have to wait and see.
The other two cars have been going about their business in a
certain way, obviously before the accident and since the
accident. Now with Kenny coming in, there will be some sort of
help or whatever I need to do there to speed that process up.
But, I mean, you keep going back to the test at Richmond. It
took him all of 15 laps at the most physically demanding track
that we run on, and he was flat and ran times that were more
than competitive enough. Speeds were not an issue there. So
obviously he had a little bit of some endurance things he wanted
to work on, he's been working on it since then.
I think, you know, I'll just help out any way I can and just try
to be an intricate part of trying to help all three cars and our
sponsors and everybody doing what the job is we came here to do.
Q: Bob, you turned a lot of laps at this track. How important is
the emergence of the SAFER Barrier for extending drivers'
RAHAL: Well, I think that not just here but anywhere, I think
it's probably had a tremendous effect. You know, I would hate to
think what would have been the case had it not been there. Even
then, you know, the angle that Buddy went in was so severe,
there's only so much you can ask of that. That probably can't do
everything, but it sure comes close.
When you look, frankly, the damage to the car, it was less than
we thought it would be given the speed and the Gs and everything
else that it hit at.
It's obviously got a very positive effect. The best thing to
extend a driver's career is not hit anything. But if you're
going - if you have the misfortune of getting into the fence, at
least with the SAFER Barrier, that goes a long way to protecting
Q: Bobby, when you considered Kenny for this situation, what
convinced you he was ready right now?
RAHAL: Kenny, he's been testing other cars. He's been talking to
us. It's no secret we've been talking about going sports car
racing. Kenny is saying, "Geez, you know, that sounds
interesting." He went down to Australia to test one of those
Australian V8 touring cars. Kenny drove Porsches in Sweden in
the Porsche Cup races, so he wasn't retired from racing.
I think for us we certainly would have had Kenny in a car if the
sponsorship was there or what have you. It hasn't been a matter
of us not wanting to bring him in, not thinking he was ready; it
was a matter of there not being a situation there, an
But, as I said, when Scott and I got an inkling of the
possibilities of Buddy not being cleared, you know, Kenny was -
I mean, there wasn't - it wasn't even close between him and
anybody else. I mean, it was Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, then depending
on what he would say.
As I said, Kenny, he only drives fast. He's always very
methodical in his thoughts about anything he undertakes. So
that's why I know he's ready to do this. And I know that he's
committed to it, and I know he's coming here to try to win. He's
not coming here just to cruise around, I can assure you.
As I say, we always felt he was ready to go. It was just a
matter of whether there was an opportunity or not. Unfortunately
for Buddy, the opportunity presented itself. But people also
forget, as Buddy mentioned a little bit earlier, Kenny was at a
lot of the races with us. He was always ready to help Buddy in
particular. But he was always there with observations and what
have you. So he's been a part of our team in a lot of ways, even
though he's not been actually driving the car.
MODERATOR: Bobby, Buddy, thank you for taking the time this
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