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October 6, 2005

Buddy Rice

Dan Wheldon

TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. IndyCar Series drivers Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice will join us this afternoon. Dan is with us now, and Buddy will join us in a couple of minutes. Dan drives the No. 26 Klein Tools Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing. After winning three of the first four races of the season, Dan won the 89th Indianapolis 500 from the 16th starting position. He's the first Briton to win the race since Graham Hill in 1966. In the second half of the season, Dan has recorded wins at Pikes Peak and Chicagoland. His six wins are the most by a driver in a single season in the 10-year history of the IndyCar Series, and two weeks ago he clinched the IndyCar Series championship at Watkins Glen, becoming just the 25th driver in history to win both the Indy 500 and the series championship in the same season. Dan, congratulations on a great season. I know today you were back at Indianapolis for a Firestone tire test. Your first laps at speed back at the track since the 500. How did it feel to get back out at Indianapolis today?

DAN WHELDON: Well, obviously it's always nice coming back to the Speedway as champion. I visited the track shortly after wining the race actually as a spectator for the Formula One race. To come back and drive, it's the best racetrack in the world, there's no doubt about it. Even when there was just three cars testing, it was myself, Buddy Rice and Helio Castroneves. It's always great fun. Especially as the season starts to die down a little, you don't get to be in the car as much. This tire test for me was another chance to get in, which I'm always happy about.

TIM HARMS: There's obviously a lot of great memories from the season. The two biggest of course, the win at Indy and the championship. If you went beyond those two, what stands out most in your mind about this season?

DAN WHELDON: Somebody said that today at lunch when I was doing some media stuff. They asked me what race was for me the most important towards the championship, other than winning the Indianapolis 500. You know, I would have to say it was Michigan. For me, that was a race, coming into it, I lost a few points at the previous two races. My lead had been cut somewhat from about 85 points down to about 65. I wanted to use that race as a mark to show that, you know what, I've lost some points, but I'm not going to kind of back down and hand this championship to somebody else, I'm going to fight for it. Really to me, although I didn't win the race, I think that was the most aggressive I drove all year. I really wanted to prove a point and prove to my guys, after having two races where I lost a little bit of momentum, I could come back and show I'm going to be very strong. I have to say the season as a whole has been particularly enjoyable. These last two seasons, I've been racing hard with all my teammates. It was Tony and I last year. Just happened to be Tony and I this year that kind of were running first and second or second and first. There's been some really, really good memories. I always love the Japanese race. That's one I have a lot of fun at. You get to hang out with all the drivers because everybody just kind of gets put together there. You have to get on whether you like it or not. There's a lot of good personalities in the series you can have fun with. That's always a fun trip. I know you said I'm not allowed to say it, but the Indianapolis 500 to me is unbelievable. I think everybody in England knows how big that race is. It certainly raised my profile in England. Just for me having achieved that win is special. If I'm allowed to keep talking a little bit and elaborate on the championship. For me, I was brought into Andretti Green Racing by Kim Green, one of the owners. He's really the guy that kind of took me out of Indy Lights and gave me the opportunity to be an IndyCar driver. I think the championship means a great deal to him. This series, as competitive as it is, we go on so many different types of tracks, we've got street courses, we've got permanent road courses, we have short ovals, we got the superspeedways, we got the one and a half mile tracks, you know, it shows that I came obviously in relatively inexperienced with the big cars. I had just driven two IndyCar races with Panther Racing before signing with the team. I've learned and kind of soaked in as much information as I could from my teammates. I've not perfected all of the tracks, but certainly done a good job on all of them. I've been able to repay his faith in me with a championship. I think that's special for that reason. There's been a lot of good memories. I could keep talking, but you'll get fed up with me.

TIM HARMS: Not at all. You mentioned the team Andretti Green Racing. That certainly has turned into the team to beat in the IndyCar Series the last couple years. Last year at this time we were talking to Tony Kanaan about how could the team top his sensational year of winning the championship, completing every lap. Somehow you guys did it. You won the 500, the championship and maybe even more remarkably all four of the drivers have won races this season. What is the focus going to be on this off-season? How does the team continue to get better for 2006?

DAN WHELDON: I think the thing you have to remember is you can look at those results, and it basically says that we have been very, very strong. It looks like, to some extent, we've been dominant. But that's not fair to say that. I think certainly Marlboro Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi, the Panther Racing Team, Rahal, there's a lot of good cars out there. I think what our goal is, is to stay the winning team if we possibly can. Eventually we're not going to be able to win as many races as we have been. It's too hard a series to do that. But we're going to keep trying, there's no doubt about it. We are not going to give up. That's the beauty of the relationship that all four of us have. I mean, we get on well, which makes the atmosphere in the team very, very good. But I would say that we push each other harder than anybody out there. Even when we race together, we'll give each other an inch, but that's all we'll give one another. Certainly this year, I noticed it from the start of the season, we're just pushing each other that much more. At the open test at Phoenix, I would go out, set a time that might be quickest. Dario would then better it. Bryan would better that. Tony would better that. I think we really have kind of driven the team forward. No doubt the team have given us the equipment to be able to keep driving one another forward. We'll work on improving our whole program. It's been really enjoyable. As competitive as all four of us have been, the relationships have all stayed very, very close, and I enjoy that. I race because I love it. Just to have the atmosphere that we have makes it even more enjoyable.

TIM HARMS: As the series champion, you have the opportunity next year to drive with the No. 1 on the car. What are your thoughts on that? Some of the recent competitors who have chosen to do that have not fared as well in the season that followed. Any sense of superstition going to the number 1?

DAN WHELDON: There kind of is in Europe. I'm as superstitious as the best of them, I hate to say. I have those kind of crazy things that I do before I get in the race car and what have you. How it's perceived in England, or certainly how I grew up, is if you win the championship, that enables you to run the No. 1 the following year, you kind of do because it somewhat takes the value of winning the championship away if you're not going to use the No. 1. That's how it's perceived certainly with the people I know in Europe. My intention would be to run it if I'm allowed. Certainly that's what I'm going to push for. Yeah, I know it certainly didn't fare well for Scott Dixon, but I don't think that was through any fault of his own. That year, things didn't go their way. They had some bad luck. Obviously, the program wasn't quite as strong. I don't think that was down to Scott.

TIM HARMS: We'll open it up for some questions for Dan.

Q. You started off the season almost winning every race you started. After Indy, I hate to call it a slump, but the wins didn't come for a while. What happened in that part of the season?

DAN WHELDON: I think you got to remember we definitely started out the season very, very strong, there's no doubt about it. I mean, there's the eventuality that you're going to stop winning. You'd be undermining and somewhat disrespecting how good the competition is in the series. That was the case certainly at Richmond where I saw Tony and Sam have issues in that race and actually drop out of the race. It was a case of maximizing the points potential. I didn't have a car to win that race, but I certainly had one that could have been second or third. I actually think I finished fourth or fifth. That was an instance where it was down to me. At times the competition was just tight. We didn't have the speed that some of the others had. It's as simple as that. Certainly as a team we were working hard to make sure that we could put one of us four in a position to win a race or win races. It didn't happen. Although the important thing in a time like that is to make sure if you can't win, to finish second, third, fourth, preferably in the top five, to make sure you're not losing too many points. That's what we did a good job of. I would certainly say having a mid-season slump would not be the case because I think we were still strong, we were still competing for wins. At Kansas I was very close. I think Milwaukee we were obviously very strong. We perhaps had a little conservative strategy. I would put that one down to the competition level of the series, people just being out-and-out quicker than us.

Q. There was some news coming out that said you were getting offers from Formula One, NASCAR. Was more being made out of that or were you thinking about looking at expanding outside of the IRL?

DAN WHELDON: Well, I think certainly what I did this season is I have a management company look after that. At the end of the day it's their job to make sure if I'm delivering for them, they need to make sure -- they need to be looking into the options for my future and making sure. For me the most important thing is to be winning races and being happy. They were obviously approached by different people. They held talks with people. Obviously when the media see that, they make it more a big deal than perhaps it is. They certainly did have contact with different people from different teams in different series. That's just part of the business, though. My contract is up. I'm working on a deal with Andretti Green. I'm working at getting something that's fair for both sides. At the same time if somebody approaches you, you can't just tell them no. You're going to listen to what they say. I think it was more of a case when we were seen listening to what other people were saying, it was made more into a big deal than it really was.

Q. How do you feel about this being the final race in Fontana?

DAN WHELDON: I'm disappointed, to tell you the truth. I think obviously the California market's very, very important to anybody involved in sport in general. To me, I lived in California for a year when I drove for Cal Wells in the Toyota Atlantic Series. I'm definitely disappointed to see it off the calendar. I think a lot of people are. It's an important race for us because HPD and Honda are based just down the road. I know they bring a lot of people to that racetrack. It's obviously one of those racetracks that's big and fast. If you've got a big engine, you can show it off. Honda always do have a big fast engine for us. I'm definitely disappointed. I'm hoping in the future we can perhaps be back at Fontana. But I would say that I'm certainly disappointed.

Q. Did you not test at Fontana before you got a ride? Did somebody have a try-out at Fontana for you?


Q. Did you test at Fontana before you signed with somebody? Is that someone else I'm thinking about?

DAN WHELDON: I think you're thinking of somebody else. I raced there in Indy Lights. Obviously I raced there in 2003 with Andretti Green, 2004. I'm going to race there in 2005. That's it for me.

Q. You had the greatest season ever by an IRL driver, yet there's been some discussions about the fact that perhaps you're the most under-publicized Indy 500 winner. What would be your reaction to that?

DAN WHELDON: It's been talked about a lot. I think it's made me more publicized by the fact I've not been publicized, if you can have that (laughter). It really doesn't affect me. I mean, the biggest thing for me, having won the Indianapolis 500, was the self-satisfaction. I've said it a million times, but it really is, that race is such a big deal to me that that stuff really doesn't matter. It was just in the beginning of the whole Danica mania thing. That's going to happen. When something is just about to start, you can understand. That was such a big deal, the Indy 500 champion somewhat got forgotten. I would just like to be remembered for being a highly talented race car driver. I keep trying every race to improve to make myself better. If when I retire I can be remembered as a bad-ass race car driver that won a lot, that's all that matters to me. If it's just the people in racing that know that, then so be it. For me, I just want to keep achieving the goals I set out for myself. If that gets me in the media, then that's great. If not, then that's great also.

Q. You say your most aggressive race was at Michigan. You're going to a track that's a virtual copy of Michigan. What do you anticipate next week at Fontana?

DAN WHELDON: I think it's going to be a really good race because what you've got, obviously the championship has been decided, I think the second, third and fourth is also -- there's going to have to be some big things happen for those positions to change, then I think you have the fifth through tenth pretty close. I think everybody's going to be going for broke. It's the kind of track that encourages that to happen because it's so wide and so big that it can allow for very, very close racing. We don't really get disturbed by dirty air too much around that. It's going to be really, really tight. I think you're going to see a lot of people driving very, very aggressively. For me, I prefer to finish the season out at Fontana than I would at Texas because Texas allows for everybody to run real, real close. Certainly you can do that at Fontana, but you've got to have a good race car also. It does reward a good race car. I enjoy that kind of superspeedway. I think it's going to be a race that everybody is gunning to win. I think certainly for everybody that drives a Honda, I know they're going to want to win for them because it's going to be the last race for a little while at California Speedway. Obviously, we've got Honda based just down the road in Torrance.

Q. You had a great year, but are you pretty satisfied with the input you had in talking with the engineers? Is that one of the keys to success, your input into how your car was reacting, the changes you made?

DAN WHELDON: I would definitely say my relationship with my engineer is obviously very good. I think he's the only guy I've had a relationship with where actually I don't even need to tell him how the car is. He can get a pretty good idea just from my expressions and my demeanor. But I would also say that the experience of coming back to some of these tracks that now I'm coming back to for a third time certainly makes a difference. I think certainly Eddie Jones, who is my engineer, is more confident about going down our own setup path now, whereas before we perhaps wouldn't have ventured off in such a direct way. I mean, we really sometimes go our own route. It takes confidence to do that and trust in not just me but the other people involved in the Klein Tools Jim Beam team. I think that's what you're seeing this year is the fact that we all have that together. I think everybody has the confidence in me to know that if it isn't right, we can go back to another setup and it's not going to take me a while to feel it out, I can get on it pretty quickly. Likewise, if it's good, Eddie and I can keep improving on it and make it even better to the point in some races where it's been dominant, like Pikes Peak. Certainly we went our own route kind of at that track, and it paid off for us. There's been some times where it does bite you, too. Fortunately with the experience together, we've been able to limit that.

Q. As you reflect back over the season, there has been higher television ratings, attendance, yet they're not going to race next year at Pikes Peak, California, Phoenix. I'm curious how you see the horizon of this sport given the fact there have been so many signs of growth yet fewer races next year.

DAN WHELDON: I think there's a reason. The main thing for the races that aren't on the calendar is that every race that the IndyCar Series goes to, they want there to be a packed house. I mean, certainly St. Petersburg, that race led the way, other than the Indianapolis 500. It was a race that was somewhat of a festival. There were people there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and there was a lot of them. There was great things going on. There was concerts. There was other races. I mean, there was a lot of good things for people to see. I think that's what they want to do some more. I think they want to really focus on the markets that are good for the IndyCar Series and try to grow them to be bigger. Perhaps the markets that haven't been so big, they perhaps may come back to them in the future, but perhaps right now they're going to focus on the individual races that they see as successful. From my personal, would I like a 14-race schedule or would I like a 25-race schedule? I would like a 25-race schedule. I love to be in the race car. I'd much rather be doing that. With the testing ban, you don't get to be in the race car too much. I mean, you do the 14 races next year. We might do eight days or 10 days of testing. To me, I would love, if you're going to run 14 races, to open up testing some more. You can make it busy for the people that love to be in the race car. I know people have families and they have to cater to that. Mechanics that put in tons of hours that perhaps the drivers don't always see, they need time away. If I was going to be selfish, I would love to see more races on the calendar. Obviously, I'd love to include California, maybe a street race in New York. There's tons of places that I'd love to go. That's not my decision, so...

Q. California Speedway was built for open-wheel cars. The NASCAR guys have come in strongly. Is it a track that guys like to drive?

DAN WHELDON: You're talking about Fontana?

Q. Yes.

DAN WHELDON: I love the place, I really do. I think it's a great track. The thing to me that makes California so good is it's very, very fast. It's one of the fastest racetracks that we go to. That's what it seems to me that the people that come to watch a race love to see. They love to see fast cars running close together. You get that. But from a pure driver's perspective, you can run close, but if your car is a little bit off, you can actually break away from that car. It's one that does reward a very fast race car, but it's also got to be good handling. It's not like a real superspeedway where the fact that the setup window is somewhat wider than, let's say, a Texas. At Fontana, you do have to have the setup pretty damn close to being perfect. You'll lose track of somebody -- if they have a perfect car, you'll lose track of them and they can run away. Certainly Adrian was very fast last year. I overshot my pit box. Adrian I think stalled in the pits. We actually dropped back. I actually just sat on his gearbox. My car was good in traffic, I was able to run close. He had an outright fast car. Through working together, we were able to climb our way back up to the leaders. That's what's great about the track. It's a superspeedway so you get cars running close together at high speeds, but it also rewards a car with a good setup. That makes it more enjoyable. I think some of the tracks that we perhaps go to now are too easy flat out even in race trim. If we can make that a little bit more difficult, I think that will make it even more fun for the drivers and it will reward the drivers that have cars that are well set up.

Q. IRL started to take the first impressions of your face for the Borg-Warner trophy. Graham Hill, Jim Clark are on that trophy. Does that cement your sense of your place in history?

DAN WHELDON: It's really a tremendous honor to have your face on that trophy. That's a race that -- I've seen some really stellar performances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To be on that trophy with some of those people... One of the best performances I've seen, actually I think he's going to be on the teleconference soon, is Buddy. The year he had in 2004, he won the pit stop competition, he put it on pole and won the race in pretty convincing fashion. That's got to go down as a real good performance. People in the past, every Indy 500 is remembered for different things. Every year a driver wins that that is hugely talented, in my opinion. There's always somebody good that wins that race. I can't think of anybody that's kind of lucked into it. There's always been somebody that's been very, very talented. That's what makes the race so special. Obviously, I think it's the biggest race in the world. It's the most highly attended race in the world. From a driver's perspective, everybody wants to win it because of those reasons and because of many more. I remember opening the month of May being quickest and winning the race this year. But it really doesn't show you the emotions you go through during the month. You have some serious highs and you have some really, really miserable lows, to tell you the truth. It's a frustrating track. I think every day you learn. No matter how good or bad the day is, it's certainly enjoyable. It's a great place to race around.

Q. Did you say you don't have a contract with Andretti Green for next year?

DAN WHELDON: No, not yet. There will be an announcement in due time on exactly what I'm going to be doing.

Q. You believe your future is still going to be with that team in the IRL?

DAN WHELDON: We're certainly working towards it.

TIM HARMS: Dan, thank you again for joining us this afternoon. We appreciate it. Congratulations on a great season. Good luck next weekend.

DAN WHELDON: Thank you very much.

TIM HARMS: We're joined now by Buddy Rice, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panos/Honda/Firestone. Buddy is 15th in the points standings right now with two top five finishes and four top 10s in 2005. He won the Indianapolis 500 last year and finished third in points. Buddy, let's talk a little bit about California Speedway. You debuted there last year with a fifth place finish. Obviously it's a lot like Michigan, a two-mile oval. You qualified third at Michigan this season. I would presume that gives you a lot of confidence as you head out there.

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, definitely going to California gives me a lot of confidence. I mean, our cars are strong on the big ovals. We qualified well at Michigan. We didn't have the best race car in the beginning. By midway, we caught the front pack and were running well before we caught a mechanical. Last year at Fontana I think we qualified in the front and I think it was me and Helio were running 1-2 for over half the race, then we had a bit of an issue that slowed the car down, and that cost us basically the win I think, because I think we had one of the fastest if not the fastest car there. Definitely looking forward to it. Trying to end this not-so-good season on a decent note and getting geared up for '06.

TIM HARMS: It's obviously been a very tough year for you guys, and in a lot of respects for some of your teammates as well. What is the next step? What are the critical things to do in the off-season to get some better results in 2006?

BUDDY RICE: I mean basically on our car, the 15 car, we need a little bit of luck, just need to put evening together. Every time we start getting something going, we have a mechanical some way, somehow something would fail. We just got to keep focusing on what we do, show up every weekend and keep going. Definitely I've caused a couple issues this year also that knocked us out. It's not from a lack of trying. It's not like the team's not trying. A lot of the stuff that happened was completely, 100% out of our control. We've done things to fix that and make it better. I think when you miss that track time with this limited testing on the schedule, I think everything just starts to snowball and you start backtracking up. It's hard to make that time or that speed or that knowledge up that you don't have. I think for us on the Argent Pioneer car, I think we'll just need to put everything together, we'll be okay. We did that at Sonoma. We were trying to overcome some adversity at Watkins Glen before I threw it off. It's not that the car wasn't fast; we qualified decent. We were coming back through the pack from our penalty. We're working on that. I pushed too hard.

TIM HARMS: I asked Dan earlier, you and he and Helio were at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today to do a Firestone test, what was it like being back at the Speedway? You had the win in 2004. This year you didn't get as much track time as you would have liked with the month being cut short for yourself. Was it a lot of fun to be back out at Indianapolis?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I was telling actually Brian Barnhart at lunch today, the place is always impressive to see when you're flying in, whether you're coming in to test, having an appearance, or whether you're coming to Indy for different reasons. To come in and see that place as you're flying in is awesome. To be able to go out there and test, I think between Dan, myself and Helio, I think we got four of the last 500s between the three of us. It was really cool to be there and think all of us had won the 500 at different times. It was pretty cool. There was a fair bit of knowledge there. I mean, obviously there's some guys that have a lot more knowledge than us, but there was a lot of knowledge at that test today. It was pretty cool.

TIM HARMS: We'll open it up for some questions for Buddy.

Q. You tested out there today and you're heading to another type of superspeedway. Dan said earlier he thought the setup variety for California Speedway was a little bit wider than it is at other superspeedways. Would you agree with that, considering the Panos is different from the Dallara chassis?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know if the setup's wider necessarily. I think a lot of the speedways we run, to hit the windows -- it's a wide window to hit. The draft and the banking and the grip of the surface or whatever, the rules package, allows us all to run close together. I think at the California Speedway, because of the lack of banking, one of the other big things is because it doesn't get run on very much, and the sand that's out there, the place is not necessarily slick, but it doesn't have all the grip that some of the other big speedways have. I think it's definitely one of those places that if you get the right setup on the car, it's fast, it handles really well, you can make a breakaway. That's what happened last year way. Helio took off and was running hard early. We weren't expecting anybody to do that. We had to keep pacing him. I believe Tony was with me the whole time. I think me and Tony, late in the first run, into the second run, caught Helio finally. It's one of those places that I think definitely you're going to have pack racing, two-by-two. Definitely late in the run, it's one of those tracks that handling is an issue. If you're car is handling good, you can start to gap someone near you and catch up to the guys in front if need be. Not all the super speedways are that way. Most keep everybody bunched up all together.

Q. How do you feel about the fact that California Speedway is not going to be on the schedule next year?

BUDDY RICE: Really there's not going to be any West Coast races except the Infineon race really. Everything else is gone from the West Coast, which I think is bad. I think it's bad for Honda, Toyota, Pioneer, Argent and all the other sponsors that are off the West Coast. It's a major hub, and there's a lot of people that have a lot of sponsors out there. I think it's bad from that aspect. I think it's bad to miss the California market. We need to do something to be in that market for those sponsors that are kicking in the amount of money that they're kicking in. I don't think it's good. We need to do something to fix that.

Q. As a driver, how do you feel about it?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I'd like to be going back to California. I really enjoy that place. I think it's just a fun place to be at. I think we got it set right with a two-day show coming up next weekend. It's going to be a bad track to have off the schedule.

Q. How was your day at the track there?

BUDDY RICE: Everything went good. Helping Firestone make faster and more durable tires for the Speedway and beyond. It was a good day.

Q. Last year when you won the Indy 500, you went on a media whirlwind for months. Are there similarities in that media blitz between you and Danica? Being a rookie, how do you think she's handled it as compared to what you went through last year?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know, I guess it's been fun. Everybody that wins something, including the 500, especially the 500 winner, goes on the same media tour. Dan was on it. He's still on it. Also with his crowning of the championship, he's going to add to that. I think it's just something that comes with the job. It's a great thing to be able to do when you win the 500. I don't think anybody discredits that one bit.

Q. You've also been around Danica this year. How has she handled it as a rookie?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. I haven't around her very much. Everybody handles it differently. I do my own thing.

Q. Is Fontana a track where you can give your engineers a little bit of input? How does all that work when you go there?

BUDDY RICE: I think everybody gives their engineers input. Some give more than others. I think, yeah, like I said earlier, I think on new tires, up into halfway part of the tank load, everybody will be packed together, it will be fairly close. Midway on into the run, I think you'll start to see some cars starting to string out, single file up. Good cars are going to go to the front. You have to have a good-handling car, but it's also got to be fast. I think there's a balancing act there to get just the right aero, mechanical package put together to be able to do both at that place because it is so fast.

Q. Is this a race where you go in stages, hoping to be up front in the last 50 to 75 laps?

BUDDY RICE: We'll have to see where I qualify. If we qualify like we think I will, toward the front, I'll try to stay towards the front. That will dictate what will happen. I don't think anybody's going to be going soft from the start. You're going to have to do what the leaders do, just like what Helio did last year. He jumped out front and started taking off. We had to play a little catch-up. Like I said, Tony and I were working together when we caught up to him. I think it's just going to be one of those things like every other race, every tank load is a sprint race to the next tank load. I don't think this place produce as whole lot of yellows. There's a lot of time to spread out. There's a lot of time to be made up getting in and out of the pits. I think you're going to have to have the whole package there if there's not a whole lot of yellows late in the race.

Q. How much did missing the Indy 500 affect the whole second half of your season?

BUDDY RICE: I don't think it affected it really much at all. It's the same group I had from last year. That part wasn't an issue. That's like your team winning the Super Bowl the year before or the World Series, then all of a sudden you make it back there, but yet you can't compete. It's just a bit of a letdown, disappointment really. From there on, we dropped out, we qualified, we're also trying to run up front. We had a good car at a bunch of these races. We just had mechanicals. It's stuff that's out of our control. Some of the stuff that's happened to the car we've never seen happen. It's never happened again. Some of it we fixed. It's just unbelievable some of the weird stuff that's happened this year. Those things come. I mean, you just got to take it how it comes because it can be just as good one day and be bad the next. You just have to keep everything in perspective.

Q. When a guy gets off to the kind of start like Dan did, how hard is that for you when you want to be up there and stay in contention? What does that do to your mindset approaching every race?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. For me, basically you got to take one weekend at a time and just go at it like that. I mean, you're not going to start chasing points early on; you're going to go for wins. That's what you're going to do. Obviously, the AGR group did that the year before with Tony. He finished every lap of every race. Those guys are extremely strong. They know how to get the job done. Obviously Dan and his group did more or less the same thing. Just won more races this year, did the deal, got it done the right way. It goes in cycles and certain people got it going on. When everything's going your way, it's going your way. When it's not, it's not. It's just kind of one of those things. Just got to keep driving every weekend and keep pushing as hard as you can and the chips will fall where they may.

Q. Everyone on the Borg-Warner trophy is a who's who of everybody racing in the world. Will it get better and better with each passing year?

BUDDY RICE: I said that last year, too. I think it's one of those things, as a younger driver, whatever, I don't think you understand -- I think you understand it, but you just don't know how to deal with all the prestige, everything that comes with that. When Rick Mears and Al Sr., Johnny Rutherford are walking up and down the paddock, I don't care who the drivers are, whether they've won something or not, everybody knows you look up to those guys. They've done the deal. As you get older, I think you'll appreciate it more and you'll understand the complete meaning of winning the 500. It just takes some time. As anything else, it's just something you've got to grow up and learn how to deal with it exactly, how you want to deal with it. That's how I look at it. I definitely think in the next couple of years, maybe once I stop driving, I'll actually realize what exactly happened on that day in 2004.

Q. Your home track is another place we're not going to go. Do you get a sense this is a temporary deal, no Fontana, and we'll get back on the schedule?

BUDDY RICE: I understand why we're not going. There's a bunch of different deals, especially with Phoenix. The crowd turnout has been low the last couple years. I'm not sure why that is or whatever. Yeah, I mean, I'd like to see it happen and go back. Obviously, there's a lot of race fans. Phoenix picked up another stop on the NASCAR tour. They know what they're doing obviously and getting people out there. Obviously, we need to do something to make the same thing happen. I don't know what that is. It's disappointing that you can't race in your own hometown, though.

TIM HARMS: Buddy, thanks for joining us. Appreciate you taking your time to do that. Good luck next weekend.

BUDDY RICE: Thank you.

End of FastScripts...

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