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INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 25, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us today. In a couple of minutes we'll be joined by Indy Car Series driver Buddy Rice, and to start the call we're very pleased to have Indy Pro Series driver Logan Gomez with us.
Good afternoon, Logan.
LOGAN GOMEZ: Good afternoon. How are you?
THE MODERATOR: Doing great, thank you.
Logan is a rookie in the Indy Pro Series driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He's 18 years old and hails from Crown Point, Indiana. He had made one start with us last year recording a 10th place finish at the road course on Indianapolis.
This year he's a bit of bad luck to start the season, a problem with the car in qualifying at Homestead forced him to start last on the grid but he managed to move up to 16th during the race. And at St. Pete he was running as high as 9th in both races when contact with other cars caused him to lose some positions.
Logan, maybe you could recap a little bit more in depth some of the things there to start the season, and I guess in some respects, you could say it's those types of incidents are just part of racing. Is that the approach that you take to look at those things, and how does that affect how you approach the rest of the year?
LOGAN GOMEZ: As far as the beginning of the season, it's been a rough start. As far as it just being bad luck, I think you create your own luck in the moves you make during the race, and we've just been making a few wrong moves. To start off with in Homestead during qualifying, we had trouble with the motor and started last and actually made it up to the top 10 and ended up having contact with another driver; and that caused us to lose quite a bit of time, caused a yellow and wanted to make sure the car was okay and still functioning.
Got back on the track, and the rest of the race was yellow. So didn't really have much of a chance to make up our positions. So again, that was just some bad luck and bad timing. We were moving up through the field which was good.
But as far as St. Pete, just two separate incidents with a couple of drivers that were being a little more aggressive I think on their part and getting spun out twice. So that's about it.
THE MODERATOR: When you look at those events, do you kind of -- and the fact that the results haven't been exactly what you had hoped for, does that put some added pressure on you, or do you say that's water under the bridge and you take the same type of approach the rest of the way?
LOGAN GOMEZ: Well, as far as the approach, I think the team has a really good formula set out for the way they approach all the races. It's obviously worked for them in the past.
As far as how I'm doing for three races, it seems to be working fine. It's just bad situations, bad timing in certain things, and really it's just -- I think everything is there. We've just got to have a look at a few more things go our way and we'll start getting better results.
THE MODERATOR: Three of our next four races are at Indianapolis. We race on the oval May 25th and road course races June 16th and 17th. Tell us a bit about growing up at Crown Point how the Indianapolis 500 has influenced you and your career.
I mean, being so close to home, it's obviously my home race. It's really had, you know, sort of laid out the path that I chose to follow in racing and then the Indy Pro Series was a really big step in getting me to race in Indy cars.
So I think that's something that, you know, it's part of my life growing up, but it's always been a dream of mine to race in the Indy 500. I'm in the right place right now, getting aligned with where I want to be; either next year or the year after or as soon as possible.
Q. Last year you had the opportunity to get on to the Speedway Course on the road course, but Friday morning you go out on to the oval for the first time. What do you think that will be like?
LOGAN GOMEZ: I actually just got done with a team meeting, and we went over, you know, what our plans are and what we want to get accomplished, and the team has got a really good plan in place. And it's obviously worked for them in the past and I'm really looking forward to getting up to speed quick and really getting the track down and just getting as comfortable as I can with the track, because it's going to be a track that hopefully I'm going to be racing at for quite a few years to come.
It's just something the first time you go out, you get chills, and you know, you sort of not necessarily want to get it out of the way, but it's something that you've been looking forward to and sort of want to get over the initial first time out on the track and really begin to develop a setup for that track and get a really good feel for it.
The MODERATOR: You mentioned a couple of times the strength of the team and the plan that they have. Obviously you've got a teammate in Alex Lloyd that's won the first three races of the season and he's a veteran of having a full season behind him. How much have you been able to work together with him through the first three events, and have you been able to learn some things from him so far?
LOGAN GOMEZ: Yeah, I think it's definitely a benefit to have a teammate such as Alex Lloyd. He has a full year's experience on this car, and it's really helped both the team in having somebody to go out and do a baseline and really to almost chase after on the weekends. It helps the whole team out, including my other teammates, Ryan Justice.
Having that, as opposed to some of the newer teams who along with the teams being new, have had new drivers also that are sort of really just shooting in the dark with the setups and other things like that, I think it's a great benefit. We've shown speed at all of the races we've been at, and obviously Alex has, too, winning all of the first three races.
It's just a comfort for me as the new driver and being new to the car, just getting my confidence level up and really listening to the team. And, you know, I trust them with my life right now, and that's what you have to have in your team in order to go fast and be confident.
THE MODERATOR: 13 races to go, including the Freedom 100 at Indy; what are your goals for the rest of the season?
LOGAN GOMEZ: I mean, Indy is obviously a big race for us. I mean, we really want to turn the season towards doing better, and we still have quite a few races; it's the most races the series has had.
I think we've still got -- we have quite a lot to prove to both myself and the other people that have been helping me out, a lot of people from around here. I'm going to go into Indy with something to prove, and hopefully we'll be there with both myself and the team. And we'll head to Milwaukee after that and hope to have some really good races ahead of us.
Q. Thanks for coming in this afternoon to talk to us. Can you tell us a little bit how you came to get the nickname the "Indiana Kid," and what kind of emotions do you think are going to be running through your head as you hold on to the Speedway there between turns one and two off the pit lane for the first time? And before you start to answer, I want to ask, for the open test on Friday, what time is the public going to be allowed to come into the Speedway to watch that, and are there any plans for the rain day if we get rained out on Friday?
THE MODERATOR: The track is open -- practice will be from 9:00 to noon and 1:00 to 5:00. I believe the track will be open that entire time for fans from the South Grandstand, and there is a rain date scheduled for Saturday.
BUDDY RICE: To go ahead and answer that question, I think the name of the Indiana Kid was sort of a nickname that my dad gave me and sort of stuck with me throughout go-karts that started out when I was about nine years old. It really wasn't that -- it didn't mean too much in go-karts because there were quite a few kids from Indiana. But it means quite a bit more running in the Indy Racing League and being the only Indy Pro Series rider from Indiana; I think it means a little bit more.
As far as driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on the oval for the first time, I really don't know what to expect as far as emotions going out on the track. It's going to be something. I mean, it's something that I've watched on television my whole life and it should be quite a good experience.
Q. Your experience has been primarily road course; how has your adaptation to the track at Homestead, and what do you think it's going to be like being on the flat track?
LOGAN GOMEZ: I think that I fared pretty well at Homestead. We actually ran the quickest lap, and aside from the bad luck, I think I got up to speed fairly quickly. It's quite a bit different and I think you really have to have a lot of confidence in your team, like I was talking about earlier.
It really helps, I mean to, have a team with as much experience as Sam Schmidt Motorsports does. But as far as going into Milwaukee, it's a really tough track to go to. I ran that last year in Formula Mazda and ended up doing pretty well; went out with a mechanical failure but we were quick during the race.
But I mean, Indy, along with all of the rest of the ovals, I'm really looking forward to because the team is really competitive.
THE MODERATOR: Logan, thanks for taking a few minutes to join us, and best of luck the rest of the way.
LOGAN GOMEZ: Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by Buddy Rice.
Thank you for taking a minute to join us here this afternoon.
Buddy is in his sixth season in the IndyCar Series. He has three career victories including at the next two venues that the IndyCar Series visits. Buddy won at Kansas in 2004 in the closest finish in that track's history, and he won the Indianapolis 500 in 2004. This season Buddy has been motivated to Dreyer and Reinbold Racing and has finished 10th in each of the first three races of the season.
Buddy, you were in a bit of limbo I would say for most of the off-season, but by the looks of your Top-10 finishes, things are working out pretty well. Can you tell us a little bit about the transition to Dreyer and Reinbold Racing over the last couple of months?
BUDDY RICE: It's been a pretty big transformation over there. Obviously I've driven for quite a few years now and I've been with -- I've tested with a lot of teams and stuff. To bring in the engineering staff that Dennis Reinbold has brought in and for me to come in and try to step that team up; we have made some massive gains so far this year from what they have been in the past as a team.
Obviously not all of our finishes have been what they should. I think we expected probably to run in the Top-5 which we did in two sessions in practice at St. Pete, but with the suspension failure and a couple little issues, we were lucky probably to even finish the race; and 10th was quite respectable at that race.
And to be quite honest, I mean, we had a pretty decent showing at Japan when we should have ended up 7th or 8th, and we had a slow stop there at the end that really relegated us back to 10th. We had a better car than that.
I think we are making improvements. We definitely need some sponsorship help, and I think once that happens, you'll see that we'll be able to do a little bit more development and move up a little bit further.
But I definitely think that we're going to have some, you know, a little bit -- I think a little bit better car coming into Kansas. We're raced on this same package at Homestead in the season opener.
Going into Indy, I think we just need to keep going with the momentum we have. We're doing well and this group is moving in the right direction. I think as we keep honing the group to run better, you'll see the performance of the car get better and everything else get a lot better.
I'm extremely happy with Robbie Buhl and Dennis Reinbold and the engineers John Dick and Chris Finch. I think it's been a big boost and I think there's been a lot better performances. I just don't that we've had exactly the finishes we deserve, but that's part of the growing period with this team in trying to build up to be a big team.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned that sponsorship would be one thing that would aid in development of the car. Obviously coming into Indianapolis, that's a long month that offers a lot of practice time. Is that extra practice time enough for not only your team, but there are several other teams that obviously really need to catch the top two or three teams. Is all of that practice time enough to help you guys make up some of that ground.
BUDDY RICE: Well, I don't know if it's going to help for sure, but the big thing is, we're going in a scheduled structure right now. The big teams with the big budgets are the ones that are going to keep slowly progressing and moving away from the rest of us and they are to keep developing.
Everyone has had these Dallaras for so long, they cannot make the leaps and bounds and jumps that they have made in the past few years. It's kind of plateaued a bit. Don't get me wrong, I still think the Penskes, the Ganassis, the AGRs are going to keep making their stuff better and keep progressing, but I think it's definitely plateaued some. I think that testing there will help us and some of the smaller teams maybe make gains because of the lack of testing we've had so far and doing some of the live testing like that I think will help us.
But like I said, if we could get some sponsorship, that will allow us to have a little bit bigger crew and allow us I think to do some more development when we are not running, and that will help our group and our car develop and get closer to the front.
MODERATOR: This weekend obviously we're coming back-to-back between Motegi and Kansas. Pretty tough coming back 6,000 miles from Motegi to do that. You personally, have you recovered from the jet lag, and do you think the tough travel will have any role in this weekend's race?
BUDDY RICE: It's hard to say, but I think everybody is pretty experienced in traveling right now. You might see one or two people have it, but they definitely won't be showing it when it comes time for Sunday's race.
I have not had any trouble with it. I think some of the help probably, too, is that I'm on the West Coast so the time difference, it's a three-hour time change between here and the West Coast. So everything for me really is just, it's actually worked out quite well. I'm right back on my sleeping schedule as I should be here, and I worked hard to make sure I could do that.
So I'll be quite comfortable when I get back to Kansas.
THE MODERATOR: One more question from me and then we'll open it up for others. The Kansas race has been moved to April. Obviously one of the reasons to do it was to get out of the heat of the summer, but it adds another race before going into Indianapolis. Do you like having another race before Indy?
BUDDY RICE: I think it's got pros and cons. Right now, I wouldn't think that it has any cons for us for the fact that we need all of the track time we can get before we get to Indy to try to tune up this team and ourselves and kind of get everything up to speed.
Unfortunately for a couple of teams, one being Panther that tore up a couple cars, that puts people like that in a bind; or people that are running full-time and they tear stuff up, it's very hard to recover. So I think some of those people might think that that's, you know, could be bad.
But I think definitely for the small teams who have made the laps -- and especially for us, we've had both cars running at all three rounds so far, and hopefully we can continue that this weekend at Kansas, but it's been a big help in us getting our team up to speed and doing what we need to do to make our group better.
Q. How are things going? You have a new team; are things going your way?
BUDDY RICE: They are a lot better than last year. I'm better in the points; I've had three Top 10's right away, which is pretty good for that group which has not had any of that. I think everything is moving in the right direction. You're taking a team that's definitely struggled in the past few years and making it competitive. So I think yeah, it's been very good.
Q. It seems like you're a lot stronger this year; and also Sarah Fisher, you two helping each other?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah, definitely. She's working hard. She's not been on the seat for a while, so it's going to take a while for her to get up speed and get used to knowing how the cars are and dealing with different engineers, and I think there's a bit of a learning curve there. But everything is moving smoothly, and like I said we're just trying to get the group to progress and get better.
Q. This is going to be your second year in a Dallara chassis; are you pretty much adapted to it now?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah, it's definitely -- I mean, I didn't run -- last year, I only ran half the season really in the Dallara. This is supposed to be the first time I've run the full season.
But also with John Dick, he runs his car a little bit differently, so it's taken a little bit for me to adapt and kind of figure things out. It's not big changes, but still his approach in the way he goes about things and his setups are a little bit different. So it's taken a little bit for us to make sure we're on the same page. I thought we've done quite well. We both kind of read each other the same way, so it's been very good on that front.
But, you know, with the Dallara and everybody running it, it's just something we had to -- obviously last year we had to do because we're running out of parts; with the G-force, the cars were getting tore up.
Q. You've won on three different types of tracks: Michigan with the high bank, and then you have Indy and Kansas with the mile-and-a-half; is there a favorite track for you?
BUDDY RICE: No, not really. I think that you know that, year, we were very strong. I think we missed out on a couple of other opportunity to win that year.
You know, I finished quite well on the mile track at Milwaukee that year, too; I got second. You know, I think that this year we should be maybe -- we should be pretty competitive. I think we go to Milwaukee as well with this Dallara, and with the way J.D. runs the car, it seems that he and I have a good fit and a good relationship going on and we kind of like to have the car the same way. So I think that's been very beneficial.
But I don't think I have one favorite track one way or the other to be quite honest.
Q. One last thing. On may 20th they are going to have a 70s car show and the media area -- not the media, but the fan area behind the start and finish line. Any chance you're thinking about bringing the Nova up?
BUDDY RICE: I don't even own a 70s-era car. My Nova is a '67, but right now I have no plans to bring it up there.
Right now we were talking about maybe taking the '49 out there, my Mercury. I'm not sure what the status is. I'll know this week. There is the possibility that could be there if anything is going to show up.
Q. I'm looking forward to seeing you run this week at Kansas, but I'm wondering about going back to the same kind of tire that you used in 2004 at Indianapolis. Do you think that your knowledge on that and your success with that will help or does the Dallara and J.D.'s setup bring you back to square one?
BUDDY RICE: I don't believe the setup brings us back to square one but it's actually the '05 tire which is the same tire we just ran at Japan. And I think it's a good combination.
I think it's going to be -- I think it's going to be good for everybody. I think the durability is there, the grip is there. I think that obviously there's been another winter season on the track, so I think that will be a benefit. I think if you go back and really look at J.D.'s track record, he's won the Indy 500 before. I think he's qualified every year that he's been there with his cars, I think, I believe if I'm correct, it's been in the top six or the top eight. So that's a pretty good thing.
No, I think we have enough time to get prepared. We have enough days once we are there. I think as long as we don't make any mis-steps, it should be a very good month for us, and hopefully we can have a solid coming out with Dreyer and Reinbold.
Q. That's two of us. Are you looking forward to this race this weekend? Do you know that the weather is going to be kind of like in the 70s and into the low 80s which makes it similar, if maybe ten or 12 degrees lower than normal at Kansas City; but do you think it will be a lot different? Do you think it will be more competitive than it was at Homestead? I think we're all hoping that.
BUDDY RICE: I think it could be more competitive. We'll have to wait and see. I think this is another one of those tracks, though, unlike Texas and Chicago and places like that, this is a handling track. Not to say that those places aren't, but there's a pretty big premium on handling because they are going to run less banking on Kansas than they did at Homestead and the tracks are quite similar.
So I think it will definitely be more competitive and there will be more cars there. We know there will be more cars than we normally have. I think there will be 22 cars showing up for the race, and that will make a difference with the few extra cars out there. I think it could be definitely more competitive, and, you know, everybody is gearing up for the month of May. So it will be interesting to see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Buddy, thanks again for joining us, appreciate that. Good luck this weekend and throughout the season.
BUDDY RICE: Thank you very much.
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