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Indy Racing League Series: Michigan Indy 400

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Michigan Indy 400

Indy Racing League Series: Michigan Indy 400

Eddie Cheever, Jr.
Felipe Giaffone
Buddy Rice
Tomas Scheckter
July 28, 2002


BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN

MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen we have Buddy Rice, who finished second in his first IRL start. We also have Felipe Giaffone, who finished third. It's your best IRL finish was second at Texas in June last year, and Nazareth in April. Both of you guys had awesome cars all day. I mean, obviously, Buddy, all weekend. Giaffone, you moved up through the field all day and were fastest for most of the race. Talk a little bit about your run today.

FELIPE GIAFFONE: Yeah, I knew it would be tough to beat those Cheever cars, you know. They did an awesome job all weekend. So what we did, we concentrate in the race, you know since the first day we got here, just work on the race setup. It seem to work very well. That's why we didn't qualify that well, we're not very worried about the qualifying as would be 400 miles. So, I mean, was a great race. My car was just in the edge, you know, not a lot of downforce. If it would take a little more downforce, the car would be pushing and lose. So we were right there with the car. I'm really pleased with my team today.

MODERATOR: Buddy, your car was awesome all day also. Working with your teammates today, talk a little bit about your first race and how exciting it was.

BUDDY RICE: I think it was good. You know, we had a good start and everything was just kind of happening how we wanted it to. We were out to see how we were going to work out on stops. We were out just conserving fuel, hanging out, doing our thing, just being real patient. Obviously, Felipe had a very good car. Obviously, the three of us kept checking out together, working together. It was working out quite well. Every once in a while we'd get a big group catching us up from behind but I think we'd end up pulling back away. I basically was just waiting till the last fuel load before we were really going to start trying to go after it. We obviously had a miscue in the pits and had to back all the way up to the back. Then obviously you couldn't be patient anymore; you had to be quite aggressive to get back through the whole pack. But obviously we had a good car. I mean, I think we showed it all day, just sitting there hanging back in second and third, kind of relaxing, waiting to see how everything was going to shake out. That was our whole game plan from the start.

MODERATOR: You worked your way back from the pit stop. Talk about how important the draft was today.

BUDDY RICE: The draft was very important. The main thing, if those guys up front on those last 30 laps would have been a little bit more sorted out, in line, it would have been much more difficult to pass. We showed that early on in the race. Everyone was running two and three abreast . That's what let myself and Scheckter and everybody get back up, keep the back clustered up, because they kept trying to run together, and everyone was just washing out, kind of grouping everybody up, slowing themselves down. When I would get a clear run, I could just run. I had been working all weekend to run on the bottom. Everybody had been running about middle to top. Our car ran on the bottom all day long. That's what we were shooting for and that's how we had the car set up was for myself to run down there because I saw no one was down there.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions from the press.

Q. Buddy, when you had to fight your way back, did you know had you chance to make a run for the finish?

BUDDY RICE: I wasn't sure that we were going to be able to make it all the way back up front. It was going to be dependent on how everybody shuffled out. I mean, if it had been like it had been before, it would have been very difficult to get back to the front because everyone would have been in single file line running real hard. With everybody running together and packing up like, that it made it easier for us to catch up.

Q. Pretty good job application. Would you expect now to be keeping your seat?

BUDDY RICE: It's the same thing. I'm going to go to Indy here tomorrow, just as I have been saying all weekend, and I'll sit down with Eddie and see if he has the funding and personnel, and if he wants to run a third car. I mean, have to wait and see. I have no idea.

MODERATOR: You can all see we've been joined by Tomas Scheckter. Your owner hasn't come into the room yet. Do you want to make some statements about how awesome this race was and your first win.

TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah. I was pretty irritated with what happened to me this week. I went out there with a vengeance. I pushed every lap, you know. Normally I go and say, "I'll push the last 20 laps and I'll just stay behind." I did the opposite today. I said, "I'm going to floor it from the beginning, I'm going to give no one any room, and I'm going to do the best job I can do from Lap 1 to Lap 200," and it paid off.

MODERATOR: Questions for Felipe Giaffone before we bring up Eddie? Congratulations, Felipe.

FELIPE GIAFFONE: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Eddie, it's kind of a bittersweet win today.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: No, it's just sweet. Very little bitter to it. The season we have, this is the sweetest thing that could have happened to us.

Q. How does it feel to be on the inside, Eddie?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: On the inside? On the inside, watching? It was very good. It was very exciting, watching the last laps.

BUDDY RICE: I think tomorrow it's going to be, "Scheckter seeks new driver for Cheever Racing."

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Could be. Could be.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions from the press.

Q. Pretty tough to fire him now, Eddie.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We finally achieved what we wanted to achieve. It took us a large number of races. As a team, it was perfect execution. I get the bonehead award for the race. To watch them both charge the field at the end was very gratifying, for all of the teams, and all of the stuff that we prepared this year. It was probably one of the best drives I've seen in a race car from any category. They were behind at the end. It was superb. I think it's a great day for Red Bull. I was very glad that Tomas thanked his 52 crew that worked with him at that point because they participated in it as well as everybody else did. It was very exciting. I was looking in the stands. There wasn't one person sitting down. Everybody was standing. And it was heart-pounding, gut-wrenching open-wheel racing at its best.

Q. Eddie, obviously the Infiniti has an awful lot of power. You have shown all year long. What's going to happen now?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Let me just address that for a second. There were a lot of Infiniti cars out there. The ones that had Red Bull on them were the ones that were going the quickest. So give our cars some credit. They were very quick around here the whole weekend. And this win, this 1-2, puts us in a very strong position for next year. Now that we've got the monkey off our back, I see no reason why it shouldn't continue for the rest of the season. Nissan makes their own decisions. We obviously sit by them.

Q. Tomas, how does it feel to finally put one together from start to finish? You always come so close. To finally finish the deal, how does it feel?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I can't explain to you now. It's all a little bit -- I still feel like I'm in the middle of turn four, in the middle of turn two. I think, you know, you ask me that question in an hour or two, I'll give you my proper feelings on it. I'm on a cloud at the moment.

Q. Tomas, if you would, take us through what happened on that last pit stop when you got down to 23 seconds behind, and then when you cut through the field and got the lead with seven to go?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: Once again, we had clutch failure, and the car was up in the air. Pushed the clutch in, engaged in the gear. Had my foot on the brake, and the car stalled. But this time, instead of Texas, we managed to get it back together. We managed to get the starter in it, restarted up immediately, and get out there. So we're giving other people a little bit of a chance, as well.

Q. Eddie, we have three cars in the race right now. When do you make the decision how long you keep the team together as a three-car team?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Whether I run in Kentucky or not is what you're saying (laughter)?

Q. It's up to you, big guy.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I was just fired by Scheckter. I'll go ask later if I can have my job back (laughter). The purpose of this race team is to win races, obviously. We made changes this weekend. I don't think that we won only because of those changes. But it did change the focus of our team. And it was a very, very successful weekend. It's not impossible. We will run three cars from here on out. Obviously, we'd like to -- now that we have a win under our belt, we might find some harmony, easier to make more progress. The cars were stunningly fast out there, both of them. I've gotten so tired of hearing about Penske and the Penske drivers. I admire them a lot, but I was really proud that our drivers dominated today. That's what we have been looking for since the beginning of the season. If we have to continue making changes, we will do that. But I wouldn't change anything right now. I would say it was almost a perfect weekend. And it was so dominant. We've been looking for that dominance from the beginning, and we've never had it. We could have had it many times. Tomas could have won four races. Bad luck, whatever conditions, whatever it was. After looking at him drive today, we could have been sitting up here with five wins. But we have one. I was talking to the general manager the other day, I said, "It's a five-race championship now. Let's see if we can win every one of the five races. That's what's left." We won the first one.

Q. Tomas, last night you said you've never been more focused for a race. How determined were you today to prove a point?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think when I get angry, I get more focused. I was angry for a week. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and start doing push-ups thinking about the race. And that's the attitude I had. And that's why I pushed flat out the whole race. And I think I'm going to take that attitude into a lot more races now.

Q. Eddie, you say it's the first time you ever watched a race, had a lot of enjoyment. Does it make you think at the end of the year, "I own these cars," maybe try to hire these two guys to keep racing?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I've always gone to races and looked at it from a driver's perspective for 30 years. Throughout this season with Tomas' blazing pace and determination that he has, there have been times when I've enjoyed working and watching that progress more than I have been driving. The last 30 laps today, I was looking at all the crew and all the determination. I was in the car with both the drivers. I enjoyed it immensely. It was very gratifying. I felt kind of silly in my overalls. But it was very -- it's a very, very proud moment for us as a company. This is our sixth win. I say today we had two of the strongest talents in the IRL, and all of our engineering and all of the work we've done has paid off. To answer your question, I have no idea what I'm going to do. I am 44 years old, and I've had a lot fun things in racing. I don't know if it's this year, now, tomorrow, whatever. No one has asked Buddy any questions.

MODERATOR: We had earlier.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Well, I didn't hear them.

Q. Can you two now forgive and forget, bury the hatchet? It's worked. You've got your win. You have your dominance as a team owner. Can you put that behind you?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think we need to sit down and speak first of all. You come to a team owner and driver. Whether he's my teammate or not, we should speak. If there's a problem in the team with whatever, whether it's personnel, racing, whatever, you need to sit down and speak it out and see, you know, how we can make it better. So maybe after everything has cooled down, Monday we can sit down and discuss some things.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I'm not in the office on Monday. Can we do it on Tuesday?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'll see about that (laughter).

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: How things change after one win (laughter). Now I have to ask him for an appointment. I'll call your manager and he'll tell me when you're available. I cannot repeat it enough times. This racing team functions on wins. We do everything we can to win. We pick the best drivers, get the best equipment, we develop race car drivers. Of course, I mean, let's say I do step down next year, can you tell me of two better drivers than these two to be driving the cars right now? After today's performance, I would say no. So absolutely, I have always had an enormous amount of respect for Tomas' talent. I hope we don't have to go through the last week we have every time finding a different reason for him to want to throttle me or strangle me or something because it's going to make it very long. But I think today, whenever you win something, especially as young as he is, it changes your focus, and what you do. But that's up to him, not to me. I would be very proud to have him continue driving our cars.

Q. Was it a deliberate tactic?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Absolutely. I wanted the best that Tomas had to offer. I don't know how he could have done a better result today, or Buddy. I want and demand and the team demands the best that everybody has to offer.

Q. Now that you have a win, can you say maybe that his methods, you think you could have won without the drama of the week?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I could have won without of the drama of the week because it hurt me personally more than anything. I'm sitting here with a win now. You know, maybe it was right.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We're not going to do that again, right?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well.

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We're going to find a different method next time. Can we move on to a different subject? I have to call his manager for an appointment first. I'll call and tell you how the discussion goes, if you'd all like to know.

Q. Closing laps of the race, you were trying to get back up to the front. Kind of had a moment where you had to dive to the apron. Talk about that. Did you almost kind of think, "This could be the moment that determines whether I make it or not"?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: No, because I knew the dogleg people would start to move off a bit. I'm not sure, Giaffone had got by. I thought maybe I'd get a toe, get on the inside, then be on the inside. I managed to run a little bit lower than most people today which gave me a little bit clean air. That's all I was planning. I probably should have gone around the outside, but there was a gap on the inside and I took it.

Q. Buddy, this is a perfect time to bring up the fact that there was -- the last two pit stops, there was a lot of happening. I've got to tell you, there was some of your crew that were going crazy. Sometimes people forget the fact that those guys play a very important part. Your comments?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I think the pit stop thing was a very important part. I mean, obviously coming into the last thing we had a miscue. We were leading. We should have came in as soon as the pits opened. It would have been -- possibly been a different outcome. It's hard to say right now. But I mean they play a very intricate role. I was very nervous on my pit stops today. I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to go. I didn't want to stall the car and make my own mistakes. Probably some of the best entries and best pit stops -- I've been practicing for the last two days, obviously in Kentucky, the best ones in the race. They play a very important role. I mean, we did most of our stops under green flag stops. We kept coming right back out right where we were at. We weren't making any spots up, but we obviously weren't losing any. That was our biggest concern, making sure I got into the pits and out of the pits without stalling it. I did my end of the deal, they did their end of the deal. We sept coming out in the same spot. Very important, especially in a two-mile course like this. I mean, they play a very important part.

Q. Buddy, how comfortable were you the last 10 laps? You were running in a very fast pack. You were touching Tomas a little bit. How comfortable was it for you with those speeds in your first IRL race?

BUDDY RICE: I was quite comfortable because Tomas and Felipe and Helio for the first half the race, all of us were running together. And I didn't have a problem then. You know, we had set up our car to run really low and we ran low all the time. Coming up on the pack, probably for both Tomas and myself, if those guys weren't running two and three abreast and sliding up in front of each other, it probably would have been a lot harder to run to the front. Because they were doing that, it made it a lot easier. I didn't have any problems with it. I was hanging out for most of the race. Wasn't anticipating having to come prior from the back of pack. I highly doubt Tomas was expecting that either because we were both running up front most of the time, buying our time.

Q. Buddy, on the last pit stop, we were kind of scrambling in the press room. We missed it. Did you miss the entrance to the pit? What happened that you came in later than everyone else?

BUDDY RICE: We came in a lap later because for some reason we either didn't get the call from race control that the pits were going open or whatever. Obviously, there's some miscue there. I mean, we were leading the race. We were going to come in our pit stop. We went out in the top three. Like I said, it could have been quite possibly a different outcome. But with the outcome, we're very happy. This is what we came to do for the Red Bull Cheever team. We still got the job accomplished we were brought in to do.

Q. Tomas, historically your father has been a man of few words. What do you think his reaction is going to be when you talk to him?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: "About time." No, I think he'll be happy. A man of few words. I know exactly what he's going to say. He's going to say, "About time." He said it to me many times before, as well.

MODERATOR: Any more questions?

Q. Reaction from all of you on the interesting interloper with Sarah Fisher?

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We all knew she had Infiniti engines in it. We knew they're strong engines. TWR have made some very powerful engines. That was a special gear up she had on anybody. I was driving with her for a while. I couldn't keep up with her, regardless, you know, of my throttle position. I was kind of glad she was out there because I thought that would give Tomas and Buddy an opportunity because they were going three-wide. They had an opportunity to -- Tomas had an opportunity to catch. If they would have gotten all in line, it would have been a lot more difficult. But they got wide and Tomas cut through them and took them apart one at a time. I think it's very good for the series. The crowd loved it. I'm glad that she didn't win and I'm glad that my guys did. I hope that doesn't sound wrong.

TOMAS SCHECKTER: When you pass people at the car, they could be a girl or boy, doesn't matter. You want to get by. It's just another object in front of you. And at that stage, there were two objects, and she was one behind. I felt safe around her. Went on the inside, she didn't close the door down the dogleg. I don't mind racing her at all.

BUDDY RICE: I agree with Tomas. At the point we were both in the back, all we were concerned about was getting back to the front. We knew we had strong cars and only had 30 laps to make it back up there. Didn't matter who was in front of me. We were going for it. I mean, we'd been hanging out all day. We obviously both had to be quite aggressive to get back through the field to get back to the front.

Q. Buddy, that's a pretty good debut. Are you confident now that whatever happens, you have secured your future in Indy racing?

BUDDY RICE: I wouldn't say it's secured. I don't have anything signed. I'm not guaranteed anything right now. I came out here. You know, Eddie asked me to come out here and run with him, do that. Hopefully if the funding is there, the personnel is there, they want me back, I'll be back maybe again for another race. I mean, as of right now, I mean, I'm still day-to-day. All this does is just maybe help my credibility now because the biggest excuse I keep hearing is either I don't have money or I've never been in a race. I still don't have the money. Obviously, I've shown I can race. So I'll tell all the team owners, I'll tell them the same thing: I got a helmet, I got a suit, that's about all I got. I've shown them I can run up front. Everything was tried on me today. My patience were tried. I showed I was aggressive. I made it in and out of the pits with no problems. And I thank Eddie Cheever for giving me that opportunity. So either something will happen here or something will happen in CART. I mean, my door is still open. I hope to be here Team Cheever again for next weekend at Kentucky. Maybe after this, after what I showed, you might see me here next year. Hard to say. Have to wait and see. Have a meeting in the next day or two. I guess I should ask Tomas if we're allowed to meet.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations.



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