CART Media Conference
March 29, 2000
TOM BLATTLER: I want to welcome everybody to our teleconference this afternoon and morning in some areas. Our guest today is Kenny Brack, driver of the Shell Ford Reynard for Team Rahal. Kenny is in Columbus today after racing in his very first CART event over the weekend where he actually became the second rookie ever to lead in his very first race. Nigel Mansell is the first back in 1993 in Australia. Kenny led for six laps from lap 48 to lap 53. Kenny enjoyed a pretty good weekend despite having an oil leak on lap 78 in the Shell Reynard. He was the quickest on Saturday morning of practice, which led him to be the final qualifier on Saturday afternoon. Kenny ended up fifth qualifying on the grid and his finish was 18th after 78 laps. This is obviously his first CART event, last Sunday afternoon. He has 28 IRL events dating back to 1997 when he started with the Galles racing team. In 1998 and 1999 he drove for AJ Foyt on the IRL circuit, winning four events, having eight podium finishes, including winning the 1999 Indy 500 and the 1998 IRL title. Previous to that, Kenny has a vast background in road racing, including winning the '93 Barber Saab championship here in the United States, finishing second in the 1996 Formula 3000 series, and third in the 1995 F-3000 series. He also collected four wins in five poles in the F-3000 series. Kenny's teammate enjoyed his first win for Team Rahal, with Max Papis winning. That was obviously a big win for the Team Rahal bunch, having both drivers, Kenny and Max, lead the event, with Max finally winning. Now we'll open it for questions.
Q. Certainly you didn't waste any time showing you could jump right into a car and do well. Are you surprised at your first CART race, that it ended up being successful?
KENNY BRACK: No, not really. I mean, I always expect good things from myself. I prepare myself for that. Obviously if you don't think you can do it, then you won't do it. That's why I'm taking on the whole thing. I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn't finish, but that's natural.
Q. Now that you've had that first CART race, what is the biggest difference, if any, that you notice between the two series?
KENNY BRACK: You know, racing is racing as far as I'm concerned. I can't really say that I find anything, any big differences. The cars are very similar to drive, speed-wise, grip-wise. Racing was what I was used to, too. One thing, when you go into the first race, obviously, you don't really know your competitors and how they drive in stressful situations and so forth and all that. I know a little bit more. I'm more familiarized with them now, obviously having been racing with them. Until you get a few races under your belt and so forth, you don't really have a clear picture of everything. I think that will come with time.
Q. I know you have a background in road racing. Are you kind of looking forward after three years in the IRL to get back on a road course in Long Beach?
KENNY BRACK: I'm very excited about that. It's been three years since I last raced on a road race. We have done quite a lot of testing. At first it was a little unusual for me in the beginning of the fall here when we started testing. After a few tests, things come back to you. Right now I feel I'm up to speed again. I will be expecting great things in Long Beach. I'm very much looking forward to going to Long Beach. It's a classic race. I've even been there once in '95 or something, '96, and looked at the race. It's a fantastic event, spectacular. To me it's very exciting to go there to do my first race in three years.
Q. I'm wondering if there's any surprises that you've seen now that you've had your first race?
KENNY BRACK: You know, not really. I mean, the only thing I can say is, you know, when you go into the first race of a season in a new situation, I mean this is very new for me, a new team, new drivers, new track, new cars, new everything, you sort of prepared for everything. Obviously, you can prepare a lot of things, but when you're racing, you know, that's the final test, so to speak. I'd say that it all comes back to square one. Racing is racing. It don't really matter in what series. It's all hard competition. You got to have everything right to be running up front. That's really the reflection that I've done. You know, the main thing obviously is to be with a good team. Team Shell Rahal is a fantastic team for me because they give me the equipment I need to run up front. We work very well together and make sure the car is set up properly to run up front.
Q. I'm thinking that after watching you and Max at spring training, you guys get along really well, and obviously it's disappointing not to finish the race. Maybe you really wanted to joust with Max for the win and it's a little disappointing.
KENNY BRACK: What was that?
Q. I'm thinking that you really wanted to have a good battle with Max on the track in the race rather than going out like did you.
KENNY BRACK: Well, of course. You know, Max and I, we're teammates. If I take my overalls off for a second, he's a very nice individual that I get along with great. We've gotten along great for all the time we've known each other, way back from the European days. However, when I put my suit on, he's my competitor, so of course I want to beat him. That's normal. He's the same way I guess, because otherwise, you know, you wouldn't be a good race driver.
Q. Have you been testing at Nazareth?
KENNY BRACK: We tested there a week and a half or two weeks ago. The track was pretty new condition because they had done some resurfacing over the winter, there was a lot of lime and stuff on the track. It was pretty slippery. We ran well there compared to everybody else. I think we actually went second to Gil de Ferran there. That's good.
Q. I wanted to get your perspective on the Rookie-of-the-Year situation. Alex Tagliani led some laps, as well as you. Did Alex's performance surprise you? Do you think it could be a battle for Rookie-of-the-Year?
KENNY BRACK: To be honest with you, I haven't really thought about the Rookie-of-the-Year title. I'm looking at other things. If that comes with it, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too. I just try to do the best I can every race. There's a lot of good drivers out there, Tagliani, if you look at his record, he's a great driver, so are a lot of others. You just have to focus on doing the best result. I haven't really spent much time thinking about any honors in any way, just to do my best every time out.
Q. Briefly on the subject of Tagliani, at the beginning of the race with the green flag, you were on the lower part of the track, he was high, looked like you had to take a significant evasive action. How close a call was that?
KENNY BRACK: Yes, I did. It was close. I don't really know the reason for that move. You know, a first Indy car start, car start I should say maybe, and I don't know if he saw me or not. Maybe he didn't see me. Everybody is trying their best. It's easy not pay attention to small details and make a mistake. In this case we got away with it, so that's fine.
Q. (Inaudible) you were running strongly, then you had failures with the O ring. Ford has a good reputation. How serious is it that three racers went out with the same basic failure?
KENNY BRACK: Obviously when I saw what happened to Michael and Fernandez, I started to run a little bit more careful because I wasn't sure what the problem was. All I knew was that I had this (inaudible) power plant. I know I've got to look after it a lot. From that point on, I drove quite a conservative race with that in mind. Obviously, that wouldn't -- it wouldn't have helped anyway because no way how you drive will change if an O ring breaks or not. But I didn't know what it was at the time. It was disturbing at the time. I'm confident Ford will rectify this problem. They have a very good engine, powerful, size-wise very light. It should be reliable from now on.
Q. Just wanted to know, have you encountered or expect to encounter any hurdles going from the 1 series to the CART FedEx series? Didn't look like it.
KENNY BRACK: It's been very smooth, you know. I've got to give a lot of credit to my team. They're super good guys, a lot of good guys on the team. They have a lot of knowledge. That's always a big help when you're coming into a season where you don't know any of the stuff. I don't foresee any big problems. I will do my best and hopefully that will be good enough for some good results. But, of course, it's my first season. There's a lot of new tracks to be learned and everything like that. Yeah, I'm expecting it to be a tough season, but I will be prepared for it.
Q. Have you noticed any major difference in driving the race cars from the IRL then over to CART in terms of the motors, one being turbo-charged, the other not? Is Max and your driving style similar enough that you guys can have a good exchange of information on what works on your chassis and doesn't?
KENNY BRACK: Well, the first part, if I compare -- I've got to compare apples to apples, which means I'm comparing (inaudible) because obviously I haven't driven an IRL car on a road track. They don't run there, you know. In that respect on an oval, there's no difference really in the cars. With the current rules, both leagues apply the speeds, the cornering speeds, the acceleration, the grip level and so forth. Very, very similar. For example, as a reference, we tested at Phoenix, and the car we ran around there in '98, something like that, '99, and the IRL cars, I think they qualified 20.2 something in the race. I think the unofficial track record is 20.0 or 20.1 or something. It's very, very similar. You can't feel a tenth or two. That's so similar, you can't feel it. In that sense, they're very, very similar, which is good for me because at least -- there's a lot of variables going to a new series, but at least the format of the racing is the same, oval tracks, and the car is handling pretty much the same as what I'm used to. I'm very grateful for that. What was the second part?
Q. Max Papis, if you have similar enough driving styles?
KENNY BRACK: We do. We tried to start off the weekend pretty much with a similar setup. Of course, drivers are a little funny because they all have their little things that they think will just help them be the champion in the end of the year (laughter). We start off the weekend similar, then we make more changes here and there. Maybe we don't change the same things all the time, but we do have our engineering group, Don Halliday and Tim Reiter, among people. They are race engineers. After each session, they sit down and we go through what we've done, how we changed the car. Let's say I have a problem, Max has done something to his car that helped that area, next session I'll try it and see fit helps me, and vice versa. It's a good situation.
Q. Max is very well-known for his emotion, expressing it. Last year when Bryan Herta won his race at Laguna, Max ran up on the podium and gave him a big kiss. I wonder if you considered that for even a moment?
KENNY BRACK: To kiss Max?
KENNY BRACK: Not really. I can't remember if I kissed his girlfriend or not. I think I'm perhaps a little bit more even-keeled when it comes to emotions. When things go wrong, I try to be even-keeled. When things go right, I try to be even-keeled. Obviously, you can't help being disappointed if you have a weekend like we had. I mean, we were Top 5 every session, ran strong in the race, then you go out with like an O ring, oil seal failure. Of course, that's very disappointing. But if I take my racing suit off for a while and think about Max, he's one of the few drivers that I like. That was a wrong saying. He's one of the few drivers that I socialize with, I should say. We've known each other for a long time. I'm very happy for him personally. Of course, when I put my suit back on, he's a competitor, just as anybody else. Then I don't like getting beaten.
Q. You said that the IRL car and the Champ car have similar down-force, yet the Champ car appears to have a smaller, lower down-force than the IRL wings, which I think would generate less down-force. Is it that the underbody of the Champ car generates more down-force?
KENNY BRACK: It depends what tracks you go to. For example, they both have, as you may know, different wing rules for -- we're talking oval tracks?
KENNY BRACK: CART has like three different wing package: for a short oval, for the track we ran now, and for super speedways. IRL, obviously they have I think three different wing packages, too. They have one wing package for Indy, they have one wing package for the high-bank super speedways, and they have one wing package for the short ovals, one-mile ovals. The reason for this obviously is to try to control the speeds at all tracks. The actual way to go about this is a little bit different between the two because CART has chosen to take down-force off the cars and make the cars a little faster on the straight line, but then very slow in the corners, which last year I don't think a lot of people liked, at least not to drive them. They didn't really like, for example, the short wing package, short oval wing package. This year, CART has increased the down-force. They have made the Handford device to control the speeds on the straight line. If I compare, for example, IRL's wing package on a high-bank track, they have more down-force than in a CART car. The reason for that would be that if you take down-force off a car in a high bank, you will see tremendous high speeds because the corner speeds won't slow down anyway, because you have the bank to help you. It's a very good thing to have more down-force because it slows you down on the straight line, and it gives the car pretty much a lot of grip in the corners so that you can go two and three wide. It's good racing, basically. At Indy, for example, IRL cars have no wing restrictions, so there the overall down-force number is probably lower than what we, for example, ran at Homestead. See what I'm saying?
KENNY BRACK: But all in all, when you look at it, it comes out speed-wise pretty much the same. It's just done in different ways.
Q. Have you had a chance to run your Champ car on the high bank tracks at Fontana or Michigan yet?
KENNY BRACK: They're not high banks. I'm talking Texas, man, 26 degrees.
Q. I hear you. The speeds at those tracks, I'm wondering if you had a chance to run the Handford device at those tracks?
KENNY BRACK: I haven't. I compare to what I know now. That's one and a half-mile track and one-mile track.
Q. Did you find yourself having to lift off the accelerator in the turns more with the wing package with a Champ car versus what you typically find in the IRL car, where they tend to run more wide open? If so, if you find that you had to lift more, did you find that to be more challenging, putting the driver into the equation more?
KENNY BRACK: No. I think it's very similar. You lift off quite a lot at Homestead, quite a lot, well not that much, but a fair bit. You do that on an IRL car race, too. At some tracks, you can keep the qualifying laps flat out in an IRL car maybe for a lap or so, when the tires and everything is at best. But I believe you do that in CART, too, when you go to, for example, maybe Michigan or Fontana or something like that. I don't know. I haven't been there yet, but I would imagine from what I have seen it's pretty much flat out at a couple of tracks.
Q. Last year the Champ cars were doing a lot of shifting on the ovals. Did you find yourself doing any shifting at all during the race on Sunday?
KENNY BRACK: No, I didn't. Last year, I think I touched a little bit on it, I didn't drive the last year's wing package. Last year's wing package gave cars a lot of straight line speed and maybe not so much cornering speed. This year I think the cornering speed has remained the same or a little bit higher than last year. But the straight line speed is not as high because you have the Handford device back there. To me this is oval driving. To me, this is the rhythm, the momentum, so forth. That's oval racing. If you have a lot of straight line speed, very slow cornering speed, that to me is more like road racing driving. Of course, you can road race on an oval, but to me this feels a very good oval driving experience.
Q. I know when I talked with you at the announcement you were joining Team Rahal, Bobby said the plans were (inaudible). I'm sure at that time he really anticipated that was what was going to happen. Obviously it's not now. Can you take me through sort of a timeline over how that decision was made?
KENNY BRACK: You know, when I joined Team Rahal, there was not promises made or anything. In fact, we never really touched on the issue when we did the deal, if you know what I mean. I don't really know - how should I say? - The if's, but's and why's of that decision. Of course, from a team standpoint, you know, I'm with Team Rahal. I understand their decision, and that's fine. There's a lot of things. Personally, the way I look at it, yeah, I would like to be at Indy, of course. It's the greatest auto race of the world. That's the bottom line. But I also know that you can ask any driver that's driven Indy. It's not just another race. You don't go there on a Friday and go back Sunday night, you won or you lost. It's a big undertaking. The whole event takes two and a half, three weeks just to be there, you to prepare, to drive every day, the setups, whatever you have. Prior to that, you probably have to spend another two, three, four months preparing for it to make sure you have the best possibility to go there and win. It's not a little undertaking. To do that in the middle of my first CART season, my rookie season, it's tough. I have a lot of other stuff to learn this year. This challenge I have in front of me is no little challenge either. I take this very serious. I devote all my time to make this a success for myself and for team Shell Rahal. I think that was a reason for the team, too, that they felt they couldn't -- maybe they didn't have the resources to do both these things this year as good as they wanted to. There's no point going to Indy if you're not 100% prepared, you know.
Q. You're going to be part of it as far as the position you have, somewhat of a stake in the Foyt efforts this year. Do you plan personally to be at the race?
KENNY BRACK: Well, you know, I would love to go to the race and be there, if my schedule allows, depending on how the testing schedule looks and everything. But, yeah, I would go there. It's a good race, good event, all that.
Q. You have a bunch of new tracks that you haven't tried, excluding the ones you've tested on. How do you prepare for a new track, what lines to run, the secrets of each track?
KENNY BRACK: Well, the secret to each track is the thing you cannot really prepare for because obviously each track is a little different and you just have to go and run there. Hopefully you'll try a few things when you run so that you sort of find out the secrets as fast as you can. Sometimes you do that quickly; sometimes it takes you a year or two years. Not everyday running, but one or two races to find out the secrets. Who knows? The only thing you can do is go there, make sure you have track knowledge, where the corners are and all that, and go for it, you know. No other way.
Q. You spoke earlier about being on an even keel, no matter good or bad. These last couple years, you raced for AJ Foyt, who is certainly not known for even keel. Was that tough for you? How did that work?
KENNY BRACK: I think it was perhaps -- well, perhaps that's why we got along good. He is more emotional than I am. If he was happy, I was happy. If he wasn't happy, I was still trying to be happy. We developed a very special relationship. To this day, we still have that special relationship. He was more than a team owner to me. He was like a mentor. We got along good. I expect my relationship with Rahal to grow also over the next near future. The more you're together, you grow. Bobby is a very unique individual, too. I think we're going to get along very good, too. I don't see any big problems. The only thing, as long as you're straight up with everything, it's fine.
Q. Some of the CART teams have not gone to Indy this year because they're afraid that it could ruin the reconciliation of the two series getting back together. Do you at all see CART teams going to Indy as affecting that at all?
KENNY BRACK: That's a tough one to answer. I mean, personally, no, I don't think so. There's a lot of issues obviously that I'm not familiar with. I'm just a driver. I drive fast cars fast. Both of them are fast, both of them are good. To me, I don't see that side of it, to be honest with you. As I said, I mean, I'm maybe not be the right one to ask.
Q. The fans want to see the two series get back together. Do the drivers in the IRL really care about that as much as the fans do?
KENNY BRACK: I do think so. I think everybody cares about it. We have to realize, in the end of the line, this is a spectator sport, it's a show, it's about having fans, it's about taking care of the fans. Me as a driver, I'm very proud of my fans. I try to do everything I can for them. I think all the other drivers and teams, for that matter, tries to do that, too. I cannot really go into it more than that. It's not really for me to take decisions for team owners and manufacturers and whatever you have in all this, these two series.
Q. If combining the two series were to happen, you would have a lot of drivers without a ride. You can only have so many cars in a race. Do you think, therefore, that some of the drivers might be against combining the two series for that reason, that they would be out of a job?
KENNY BRACK: Again, it's hard for me to answer that question because, obviously, I cannot -- my voice is not for all the drivers. I can tell you this, when I came to the United States, I had a very good road racing record, but I didn't get a ride in CART. My ride, the opportunity that opened up was actually in the IRL. Personally, have a lot to thank the IRL for my success.
Q. That's my point.
KENNY BRACK: You can look at it whatever way you like. I don't know. What I can say, though, the more leagues and the more teams, the more opportunity there are for drivers, obviously. The driver, he drives whatever goes fast and is a good opportunity. But the drivers, they're not really the ones that decides this matter. I cannot say to Andrew Craig or Tony George or whoever involved, I cannot go and say, "This is what we need, this is what we're going to go." It's not my call. What the driver thinks in this whole situation is quite irrelevant.
Q. Do you have any aspirations to go to Formula 1 or NASCAR someday? Do you view CART as being the pinnacle for you at this time?
KENNY BRACK: I view CART, IRL and Formula 1 as the three top series in the world. It's not being at the top of the racing series that's the most important. That's important, obviously, because if you're good, you want to be at the highest. There's not one league anymore that's the highest; it's three. To me, the most important thing when I go racing is the feeling of when I come to the race weekend, I have a car, a team that I can win with. You can do that in IRL. You can do that in CART. In Formula 1, unless you're with Ferrari or McLaren or maybe Jordan, you go to the race, but you know if you drive a super race, the best driver out there, if your team performs the best pit stops out there, you may take a point, but probably not, unless a lot of cars retire. That is not really appealing to me. I want to race . When I get to the racetrack, it's my performance and my team's performance if we win or lose the race. CART and IRL, they're a very good series for that. That's what drives me to do my best. NASCAR is very interesting. I raced in the IROC series. I like that type of driving, but it's very different from open-wheel racing. It's very difficult, but it's different. I'm sure if a NASCAR driver drove an open-wheel car, he'd find it very difficult, but in different areas than what he's used to. Maybe one day if you get presented with a good opportunity, NASCAR, I would be interested in NASCAR, yes. Not for the time being. I cannot see myself being in NASCAR for a few years.
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