Following a year full of near-misses and 'what ifs,' Eddie Cheever's eponymous Indy Racing League team has been aided in its preparations for the upcoming season thanks to its alliance with Team Menard and a primary focus just a single-car.

With Cheever not expecting to run a full 16-race IRL IndyCar schedule this year, RBCR's main focus will be on Buddy Rice, who has signed for his first full-season of IRL action following an impressive debut last year.

Although nothing has been made official by the team there has been no hard talk of the team hiring another driver to compete in the races Cheever elects not to participate in, (ala Michael Andretti/Dan Wheldon), a situation that lends itself to the team's new philosophy: Lean and Mean.

"We had too many near victories last season," stated the 1998 Indy 500 winner. "It may have been a great show for the fans, but it was unacceptable for us as a company. This season we have gone back to our roots of being a technically driven company, and operating more efficiently towards reaching our goals. We have taken the best of what we have and structured the team around that."

The "best" means signing Phoenix-native Buddy Rice to a full-season ride, hiring NASCAR veteran Max Jones as managing director, forming Menard Cheever Technologies (MCT) with John Menard, and technology partnerships with Dallara and Chevrolet.

For Cheever personally it means stepping down as an IRL IndyCar Series regular and concentrating on the Indianapolis 500.

"Buddy is now the leader of this team," Cheever said. "We decided that if we want to achieve the results we are looking for we need to put all our efforts into his program. As I am spending more and more time on the business side of things, I see the need for a young and dedicated driver for our team and Buddy fits that mould. Still, I am very much looking forward to having a shot at winning my second Indy 500."

In his new role as lead driver for Red Bull Cheever Racing, 27-year-old Phoenix native Rice is looking forward to the 2003 IndyCar Series Championship.

"This is exactly where I want to be," Rice said. "As an American driver moving through the ladder system, it has been a roller-coaster ride. This is everything I have been waiting for. What makes it even better is that Red Bull, which has been with me since 1997, is a major partner in the Cheever Racing team so I really feel at home here."

Red Bull Cheever Racing will participate in the eighth annual IRL Test in the West this week at California Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. Both Rice and Cheever will be in action as the team tries to achieve as much set-up and engine data as possible.

"I am anxious to get in the car at California and Phoenix for the Test in the West," added Rice. "We saw a little bit of what the other teams had at Homestead, but this will be a better measure. Still we are concentrating on what we need to get done. We have a limited number of test days and a lot of work to do with our new Red Bull Dallara-Chevy package. For the first time this year Eddie will be testing with us which will help with this workload. It will be an important week for us."

"It's been a long time since I have driven," continued Cheever. "Since the Texas race I have worked non-stop setting up two new companies and taking care of business. I am looking forward to getting out of the office and into the racecar.

"My goals for the Test in the West are twofold. First I am there to help Buddy and the Red Bull crew get up to speed with the new Dallara-Chevrolet package. We have a new team manager, Max Jones, who is taking the bull by the horn and a new technical alliance with John Menard, MCT. All these new pieces need to be massaged into place to build the team into the force it needs to be to win races. Second, as a driver, this will be the first test in preparation for my only IndyCar Series race this year, the Indianapolis 500," he concluded."