Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
February 22, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome everybody to Faces and New Places, Part II, this afternoon. Welcome Sarah Fisher, Kosuke Matsuura, Buddy Rice.
After making three starts in 2006, Sarah Fisher returns to the IndyCar Series competition with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. This season Panther Racing expands to a two-car effort with Kosuke joining the fold there. After three seasons with Rahal Letterman Racing, including a 2004 Indy 500 championship, Buddy Rice makes the move to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, teaming up with Sarah Fisher.
Buddy, we'll start with you. Talk about your move over to Dreyer & Reinbold this winter.
BUDDY RICE: It's a little bit different place, but it's extremely exciting with the engineers J.D. and Chris Finch coming over from the Fernandez team. Obviously Dreyer & Reinbold has been trying to make some big moves to make themselves a better team to run up front, be a lot stronger team.
I think with the engineers they brought in, myself and teaming up with Sarah, I think we're going to run quite well I think this year - a lot better than people think. With the efforts that Robby and Dennis have put into this team, the money they spent to make us run up front and be competitive, I think it's going to end up showing. We were fairly decent yesterday in our first day of oval testing. As we have to learn and get more comfortable with each other, I think we're going to be a lot more competitive.
We should be coming back at Homestead for the race and be quite competitive. I think we're right where we should be. We know we have some stuff to improve on. Hopefully we can do that today.
THE MODERATOR: Sarah, for you, it's sort of a homecoming or reunion with Dreyer & Reinbold. If you would talk about that, partnering up with Buddy on the racetrack this year.
SARAH FISHER: Well, you know, I stayed consistent friends with Dennis throughout the stock car stuff that I did. When I wasn't racing those, I naturally came to watch the IndyCars because they're pretty exciting to watch. With that in mind, they needed a driver for a couple races, the two races last year, I was there. Said, Hey, put me in the car. In the off-season we just kept working on making something happen. Here we are.
I can only echo what Buddy said about the leaps and bounds they've taken in the off-season that they have never done before. The cars we have are the nicest cars that have ever rolled out of that shop. They're trying very hard, working very hard. There's still some things we think we need to clean up on, but we'll work towards it. That's what it's all about.
Having Buddy as a teammate is going to be awesome. We've already worked together really well. He's a great driver and has great feedback. Hopefully I can help him at one point, too. Really exciting.
THE MODERATOR: Kosuke, brand-new team, new teammate for you in 2007. Could you talk about your transition over to Panther Racing.
KOSUKE MATSUURA: Well, Panther Racing is one of the best team in the IndyCar Series. I'm very happy to be here. As you know, Vitor Meira is one of the best driver in this field. He's very helpful. He share the data, he share everything.
Also engineer, Billy Pappas, and my engineer, I forget his name, Brent Harvey (laughter), these two engineers, they have great, great experience. Also, you know, John Barnes, team owner, his determination is awesome.
I think if we cooperate together it will be one of the strongest teams. Right now Penske and Ganassi is a little bit ahead of us. But I think we have a great car for the short oval and the road course, a little bit struggling in the 1.5-mile oval track, but we will figure out.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Sarah, you got to run those two races last year. Do you feel rusty at all coming back?
SARAH FISHER: Just getting used to the car again. The glasses at night are a little bit of trouble. I'm going to have to figure that out a little better. I mean, we're a team. We try and help each other, get back in the swing of things. It's not been too bad.
Q. You said these are the nicest cars to roll out of the Dreyer & Reinbold shop. Can you tell us what they're doing different? Body, fit?
BUDDY RICE: Really nice paint jobs (laughter).
SARAH FISHER: Well, Andy is my crew chief. He comes home every night and tells me what little things they're doing here and there. It's just what they're doing is a little bit different and nicer than they've done in the past. They're prepared. They put a lot of time and effort into the cars that they have the manpower to do now, whereas before in like 2003, there was only three guys on my car the whole year. It was a bit of a thrash all the time.
We have the capabilities of doing things nicer because we have more people and more invested in it. Dennis has a great interest in making that happen. We got to finish it up on the track.
THE MODERATOR: Buddy, probably most of us take it for granted, but talk about switching teams. Is there a lot of change? Is it just getting used to a new group of guys? Talk about that, if you would.
BUDDY RICE: Well, there's definitely a lot of change. I mean, completely new crew. Obviously the cars are a little bit different. I mainly ran in the G Force until late last season, halfway through, I think we started at Texas with Rahal with the Dallaras. We ran G Forces all the way into the road courses. A little bit getting familiar with that.
Obviously the way J.D. and Chris set their cars up, how they approach it, for me to get on with them, too, is going to take a little bit of working together and to mesh, understand exactly when I say it's pushing, to what extent, how to read into that. That's what will end up happening on the races. You know, when there's a lot of continuity, you've been with someone for a long time, just by the tone of your voice they can tell how much or how bad the car is either way, what they need to do. When you're working with somebody new, they don't understand that. It takes a little bit of time to get familiarized with it.
I guess one of the things I got going for me right now is that basically since my inception into the IRL in 2002, I've changed every single year engineers. I guess that's kind of the usual again for me.
It should be a very exciting year for us at Dreyer & Reinbold. These guys are really smart. I think we can put together a really good car and a very good year. It's just coming -- it will take a little bit. No different than what happened in '04 when I came out with Todd Bowland. Took us a few rounds to get acquainted, figure out what we needed to do, things started rolling really well after that. There's no reason why we can't do that this year.
Q. Buddy, practicing in the top 10 last night. The Dreyer & Reinbold cars were the bottom three or four on superspeedways last year. Do you feel like you're maxed out yet or got a lot more to go?
BUDDY RICE: We're definitely not maxed out. There's room for improvement. The four red cars with Penske and Ganassi, they're clearly the class of the field right now, as they were last year. But I think even as Kosuke said, there's some teams that are definitely creeping up. Those cars can't keep making the jumps, leaps and bounds that they have in the last couple years. They're going to plateau to some degree. Granted, they're going to still make some improvements with those teams, they're a bunch of very smart and talented people over there. There's no reason some of these groups can't make the jumps to get close.
With the guys that came over from Fernandez Racing, coming to Dreyer & Reinbold, they had cars that were solidly in the top 10, very competitive cars. With what I was driving last year consistently right around 12th, 13th and 14th, I mean, we rolled off the trailer yesterday seventh or eighth. We went back, made some adjustments, we came back out and were actually pretty competitive I think in race trim when we ran with some of the other cars that are doing the same running.
I think it's very exciting, not only for Dreyer & Reinbold but also for myself. I think it gives good satisfaction to both Dennis and Robby, the effort and the team and the money that they've spent to get their team to run closer to the front.
Granted, we're not going to come to Homestead and I think podium, but we definitely have a shot of running really close to the top five and we should be able to get up there and be competitive and not have to constantly be pitted towards the back, not have some of the good pit selection, things like that.
I think if we can get ourselves pretty competitive here in the next few days at testing, I think, like you said, it's going to be shocking, but I think we can definitely make Dreyer & Reinbold a very competitive team. There's no reason why we can't run inside the top 10 like we did last night. We ran some of the fewest laps out of everybody. Necessarily that wasn't by design, just the way it worked out. Still we were quite competitive all night. It's the first time I've been that competitive in a couple of years. It's pretty exciting.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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