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IRL IndyCar Star Buddy Rice Takes First IROC Laps

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 14, 2005) - One of the highlights of the season opener for the Crown Royal International Race of Champions team is getting new drivers from other disciplines in the cars and up to speed for the first time.

Aside from determining the setup and equalizing the field of IROC cars the Crown Royal IROC test drivers also have the challenge of tutoring the new drivers for their first IROC race. All of the Crown Royal IROC practice cars are equipped with Racing Electronics two-way radios giving the drivers communication while on the track. Series test driver Jim Sauter, Jay Sauter, Dave Marcis and Andy Hillenburg coach the drivers in real-time while practicing drafting and teaching the drivers about the various racing grooves.

The 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion, Buddy Rice climbed into the Crown Royal IROC cars for the first time on Sunday and learned quickly the benefits of having experienced drivers on the other end of the push-to-talk button. Rice said, "When you come into something new you're usually on your own out there and only in contact with your crew. Being able to talk with the other drivers on the track is a great advantage."

"The usual drill is to get the driver comfortable in the car just like you would do in a new street car," said IROC President, Jay Signore. "For the new drivers we like to have the car full of fuel and with fresh tires. We'll send him out to get the feel of the car and experience the race track. He'll come in and sit for a moment, cool the tires and that gives him some time to digest it all and make any other minor adjustments before sending him out with the other drivers."

Of his first experience Rice said, "It's great getting out and trying something new with all the guys and learning from their experience. It's kind of similar to the 24-hour race where you have guys from all different disciplines, but it's cool to have them all in one series with the same car, it's exciting. I was just out there running with Bobby Hamilton, Kurt Busch, Max Papis, Jay and Jim Sauter - it was pretty cool."

Rice's first session encompassed a bit more than the IndyCar ace had anticipated when he picked up debris on the right rear tire. "I got thrown into the deep end after making a few laps and cutting down a tire. That's always exciting and I'm glad to get that part out of the way," said Rice. "But then we got under way with three and then four cars drafting and you can feel the way the air changes around you. I'm looking forward to the rest of the week here, running with the other guys and getting more experience. You're always learning and I'm really looking forward to it."

Round one of the 2005 Crown Royal IROC Series will take place on Friday, February 18 at Daytona International Speedway. The season opener will be broadcast live on SPEED channel at 6:00 p.m. ET.


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