IRL: Indy 500: Rahal, Brack, Rice press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 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 ...

IRL: Indy 500: Rahal, Brack, Rice press conference, part 2
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Continued from part 1

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 (laughter).

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 for Kenny.

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 Day.

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 (laughter).

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 time.

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 more.

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 thing.

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 physically demanding?

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 would take?

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 it will.

Thanks, guys.

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' careers?

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 the drivers.

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 opportunity.

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 morning.

-ims-

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