By Amy Konrath

Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:

1. If you missed it: Hildebrand-Rice teleconference:

2. No fooling: Barber race scheduled for April 1

1. If you missed it: Hildebrand-Rice teleconference: IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Buddy Rice and JR Hildebrand participated in an INDYCAR teleconference earlier today. A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at Selected quotes are below.

Q. Buddy, how excited are your to be back with Panther and Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka?

BUDDY RICE: I’m really excited to be back. I mean, Indy was a lot of fun. I hadn’t been there in a couple of years. And it was great to have Fuzzy’s come onboard. And we were able to put a couple more races together. I’m looking forward to it. I want to get back in there, run these last

Q. You and J.R. were a pretty formidable combination at Indy. I know you qualified 7th had a pretty strong month. Everybody knows about J.R.’s 500, so I won’t bring that up. But what’s it like working with J.R.? Can you help him as he’s pursuing this rookie title?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I think there’s a way of helping by bringing a second car in. I think there’s more information that way. I think that that will also help everybody get up to speed a little bit faster and keep up with the track.

Obviously with going to Kentucky, it’s got a new surface, a lot of people haven’t been there, so I think that will be important to make sure we have as much information as we can, to make the two cars as good as we can get them.

And obviously going to Vegas, the cars haven’t raced there. There have been some cars that did tests and things like that. But I think having both cars run there and having them both up front, I think it’s definitely going to be a help for J.R. for Rookie of the Year, and for us having the National Guard and the Fuzzy’s car up front, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Q. J.R., Buddy talked about running with you as a teammate. You’ve been a single car guy for most of the year. How much does having a teammate, especially one like Buddy Rice, help you in the No. 4 car?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, it’s a huge help. And it really goes back to a lot of the things that Buddy said, just having that extra information, being able to ‑‑ you know, for me as the driver being able to sort of bounce things off of him and knowing that he knows what he’s talking about and he’s got his act together, and that he’s going to be real with me as a teammate.

So that was a big part of, I think, how smoothly the month, the whole month went, at Indy. And I’ve definitely been pushing to try to continue that relationship going forward. And Buddy and I talk a lot of times after the races and all that kind of stuff that he hasn’t been there for. So I’m looking forward to having him back there in the Fuzzy’s car to run along with us in the Guard car for the last two races.

Q. Seems that James Hinchcliffe has been coming on pretty strong at the end here for the Rookie of the Year title. So in addition to the race going on you also have the race against “Hinch”. Does the rookie prize at the end of the year affect the way you approach each race?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: For me, not really. And I think ‑‑ I would think the same thing, you hear the same thing from “Hinch” that as kind of younger guys as our first year in the series, we’re just trying to make an impact on what’s going on every race.

I certainly don’t look at it as I’m really racing against him, necessarily. I mean, you could make a strong case over the last kind of three or four races that we’ve been trying to lose it to each other, to be honest with you.

But for me it’s much more about just getting out there and improving on the previous weekend and having strong performances. And where we sort of end up in the points relative to everybody else and relative to the other rookie is sort of secondary at the end of the year.

Q.: Obviously before Buddy comes back on as your teammate, there’s a race in Japan next week. It’s another new venue for the IZod IndyCar Series as we move from the oval to the road course at Motegi. What do you know about the road course at Motegi, and what do you expect from the race?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I’ve seen a lot of, some in‑car footage and seen the track map and all that kind of stuff. I think it looks like kind of a cool track. Definitely a long lap, has a little bit of a variety of corners. From what we understand, it’s quite smooth.

So I’m really looking forward to getting over there and seeing it for myself in person. And I know we’ve made ‑‑ we’ve made some changes and made some strides over the last few months in our road course program. We were really strong at Mid‑Ohio, some places like that.

So we’re looking forward to getting on track and hopefully having a good result over there.

2. No fooling: Barber race scheduled for April 1: In only its second year, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy was named the “2011 Event of the Year” by the Alabama Tourism Department as more than 79,000 spectators from 41 states and five countries watched the IZOD IndyCar Series race.

It undoubtedly will be a contender for the award in 2012, too. Barber Motorsports Park and ZOOM Motorsports announced that the race weekend on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course will take place March 30-April 1. That’s a week earlier than this year’s event.

Tickets will go on sale later this month at

The race will be the second on the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule and feature the new Dallara Automobili-built car and engine (2.0-liter turbocharged) with engine manufacturer competition for the first time since 2005. Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon tested the new car in August on the Barber Motorsports Park course that features 80 feet of elevation change.

Will Power of Verizon Team Penske won the race from the pole this past April, beating Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti to the checkered flag. Power, who is among the six drivers to win this season, most recently won the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix to slice championship front-runner Franchitti’s lead to five points heading to the road course race at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 17.


The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Indy Japan: The Final on Sept. 18 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be televised live at 11:30 p.m. (ET), Sept. 17 by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Kentucky 100 on Oct. 2 at the Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised by VERSUS.