CART Media Conference
May 22, 2001
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us this afternoon. I am Merrill Cain with CART filling in for our usual host T.E. McHale. Our guest today is driver Kenny Brack of Team Rahal who recorded the first victory of his FedEx Championship Series career in last Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan. Good afternoon Kenny, congratulations and thanks for being with us today.
KENNY BRACK: Thank you.
MERRILL CAIN: Kenny, driver of the No. 8 Shell Ford Lola and he earned his first career victory in his 24th start on Saturday finishing 3.650 seconds ahead of runnerup Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske. Kenny averaged a race record 178.113 miles per hour en route to the victory which gave him the FedEx Championship Series points lead for the first time in his career. With 49 points Kenny holds a two point advantage over Castroneves heading into Round 6 of the Championship, the Miller Lite 225 scheduled for Sunday, June 3rd, at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Kenny's victory Saturday was Team Rahal's first since Max Papis won the 2000 FedEx Championship Series opener at Homestead Speedway. He owns three Top 5 performances in 4 starts this season including finishes of fifth in Mexico and second at Nazareth and has also recorded the first two poles of his FedEx Championship Series career at Mexico and Texas respectively. Overall Kenny, the winner of the 2000 Jim Truman Rookie-of-the-Year award owns 12 Top 5-finishes in 24 FedEx Championship Series career starts. He has scored Championship points in 10 of his past 13 starts, dating to a fourth place performance last year at Chicago. The Miller Lite 225, Round 6 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series, will air live on ABC television on Sunday, June 3rd beginning at 4 P.M. eastern time. With that we will begin taking questions for Kenny Brack.
Q. I want to recreate something for you real quick. Sunday afternoon this came over the loud speaker at Indy: "Kenny Brack, Kenny Brack, please report to the Walker Racing garage."
KENNY BRACK: (Laughs).
Q. I am just wondering, you know, what is going on -- do you take that as a compliment that so many people run around wondering what hole you were hiding in over there, when you would finally show your head? I am just wondering how does a driver see that when he is looking at it from afar?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I haven't seen it so I don't know. That's the first I know about it. But, you know, I guess -- I don't know. It's been kind -- the rumor was pretty heavy (inaudible) I was going to drive for A.J., for Ganassi, for Penske and for Walker Racing. I don't know, it's a tough time driving for all those teams in the same race.
Q. But it must be great to be wanted?
KENNY BRACK: (Laughs) Yeah.
Q. You went straight to Sweden; is that correct, that's correct, after the race, right?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, that's right.
Q. What does this mean to you when you look at it, the breakthrough victory, I mean, what -- do you feel like a totally different guy now, you know what I mean? The burden is lifted?
KENNY BRACK: No, I don't feel like a different guy. I am still the same, I hope. But of course, it was a relief because we have been so close so many times and we have always -- I mean, look at the season last year, I mean, last race we were leading the most laps dicing for the lead when we had a mechanical problem. We had other situations last year where we were really competitive and running up front and always something happens. This year we have had two poles and four front-row starts and in Nazareth it was -- we were clearly class of the field there. We had a really, really good -- the Lola Ford so good there, it was like stealing candies from or taking candy from kids. It was really, really good. But still we ended up second and it has been so many times that, you know, we have been around running up there and now finally we got that first win and that feels, of course, great. As I said, it is like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am very happy about that and for myself but also for the whole Team Rahal Shell team because we -- they have worked very hard to get this result.
Q. Following up, from what you just delineated, all those examples, do you feel strength now from the standpoint of making not only getting that first win, but making a legitimate run at the Championship now? Do you feel like you have really got a solid effort behind you?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I felt that all along. It has just been we have been denied so many times and I guess now we have done it, but I mean, this is not the answer to everything. But for certain, we have one victory and we aim for more victories, you know, and that's how a Championship comes together. But you also -- all the other results, the seconds and the thirds and the fourth and the fifth places, those are good feeling results for points for a Championship. But certainly we want to win more, you know, and sure, we have high expectations in Team Rahal because we have a very solid group with a lot of knowledgeable people there, you know, including mechanics, engineers, team managers and drivers and everything and Ford, Shell, good solid partners we work with, and so we feel that we have a good foundation to make a quest for the Championship. But we have to improve. That's the name of the game. We have got to stay focused. We have got to improve. We can't relax just because we won a race. We need this positive energy, but, you know, we've got to stay focused and keep making improvements.
Q. Now that this first one is behind you, how do you keep the momentum going into Milwaukee and so on through the season?
KENNY BRACK: Well, you just have to keep focused and the main thing, you know, the end result of a race is just a receipt of how good you were that weekend. No one is that good that you can't improve. We certainly have areas where we can still improve and we keep focus on that and keep improving ourselves in different areas and just go along with it. That's how it needs to be done.
Q. What are some of those areas that you feel the team needs to improve on?
KENNY BRACK: It is everything, you know, but we still have to -- for example, pit spots, we need to get a little better there, I believe. And we have come along way when it comes to pit spots. We have come along way when it comes to reliability. But we have a new chassis this year and so we are still sort of learning a little bit about that. But we still have to keep making those improvements. Driving - you have to improve the driving. You have to improve every aspect of the team to keep developing. It never stops. Because if you stop then you get overtaken before you know it.
Q. Isn't it interesting that you guys have come in from other series and also European racing being used to roads always wind up winning first on an oval?
KENNY BRACK: Oh - I guess so. But I don't know. I don't think it's -- I don't know if it's strange. I mean --
Q. Do you like ovals that much or that's just the way the ball bounces, so to speak?
KENNY BRACK: No, you know, I really don't know. We have been running competitively on road courses too. I mean, we led in Mexico until an electronic switch stopped us possibly from winning. It is just how the cars go, you know.
Q. I don't know, maybe the team is more comfortable on ovals. You are looking forward to now a short oval. How are you going to approach this differently than the longer one at Motegi?
KENNY BRACK: I think first of all, the team, we have been comfortable on all kinds of tracks this year. I think our track record proves that. But in the beginning of the season we had some technical difficulties that, you know, put us out of the lead quest really for those two. But still I think that -- I still think that we have got the best to see when it comes to road racing from ourselves and Milwaukee is a one-mile oval. It is going to be tough to pass. It is more like a Nazareth situation where it is going to be very difficult to pass. So starting position obviously is going to be important. Pit strategy and pit work will be key elements there, of course, together with having a good setup on the car.
Q. What did Bob have to say after the race? Did he give you a call?
KENNY BRACK: Bob was very happy. In fact, I was in England yesterday, Monday to see Cosworth. I also met with Bobby. He was at Jaguar Formula 1 team so we had lunch together and he is very happy and for his team effort and for his team and so, of course, are we. We were very happy that we got that win and we have got other results to back that win up with so that we were in the Championship lead at this point. And that is a great situation for the Rahal Shell Ford team to be in.
Q. I guess you will be at Indy this weekend watching some of your compatriots?
KENNY BRACK: I won't, actually. I will be in Sweden up until Sunday, but I follow it closely and it is very exciting, obviously.
Q. I just came on so I don't know if somebody asked this question or not, but I understand that you made front-page headlines in your home country on Sunday. How do you feel about that?
KENNY BRACK: Well, it is nice to get, you know, appreciation from Swedish fans, from Swedish press and so forth, but that's not the first time. It is nice when it happens, but it happens quite a lot, actually.
Q. Do they follow CART racing a lot in your country?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, I mean, they follow -- I mean, the Swedish press have been very kind to me over the years. They follow whatever racing I have been in and there is a lot of knowledgeable, interested race fans in Sweden, so the Swedish press have been very, you know, interested in my results and my racing and so forth.
Q. How gratifying was it for your team or the Ford folks to be able to go into Honda's home country and to steal another win, so to speak?
KENNY BRACK: It is very gratifying. A win is always gratifying. I don't know if it is more gratifying because it was in Japan and Ford was able to get the victory. I mean, a victory is always gratifying. But I guess there is a little bit of rivalry going on and so it was great, you know, to be able to win there. But it was kind of funny too because we had a press conference, I think, it was on Tuesday or something before the race and that question came up and -- if Ford was going to able to win the race. And I said I think that obviously we have plans to win the race although I know it is not what the Japanese engine manufacturers want to hear, but that's our plan and there was -- that's the way it went too. So it was good.
Q. While the HANS device is mandated at the ovals for CART, are you comfortable with it yet to run it on road courses?
KENNY BRACK: No, I am not because it's not -- the HANS devices now are very universally made so that there is only like two or three different sizes. And I must say, for me, I wouldn't be able to steer the car good enough for use on road course. But I am sure it could be modified so that I could use it. But right now I am using it where it is mandatory and that's on the ovals.
MERRILL CAIN: Just to follow up on that, yes, the HANS device is required. It is mandatory on ovals this season in CART. It is strongly recommended that the HANS device be used on road courses but not mandatory at this point. Anybody else have a question for Kenny Brack?
Q. I am just interested to know how badly would you like to be back at Indy, you know, do you see it happening next year as soon as -- next year for you possibly getting back there?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, I think -- I want to be back there because now I feel that, you know, I feel my CART Racing is under control. I have a good situation, steady situation and can -- I have some energy to do something else. I would like to be back at Indy. It is the world's biggest race. It is something -- it is a fantastic event. Any racing driver with some sense would like to be there. Hopefully I will be back next year. I think it is a very strong possibility that I will be there next year.
Q. On a one-off basis or with Team Rahal? If I could ask a loaded question...
KENNY BRACK: I don't know yet, we will see. I hope it will be with Team Rahal, of course, because we have a very good corporation and it would be a fantastic thing to go there with Team Rahal and to try to win the race. But it is a big task for any team, you know, because it is a big task to be involved with a CART Racing, it is a lot of work and to be doing Indy, it is another three weeks nearly every day running, so it takes some thinking on how to do that stuff so that neither program would suffer.
Q. Your background, far background was road racing and stuff. A driver said the other day that he even when he was road racing in Europe, he felt at his best, like sweeper turns, or the real fast high-speed corners, which of course lends itself when you think about it oval racing. Oval racing just high speed corner after another instead of like little S curves or something in between. I am wondering, you seem extremely comfortable on ovals. Is that one of the reasons why you just like the high-speed turn or what?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I think I like high-speed turns, but I like any kind of racetrack. If there is a race, I like it. If there's an oval or a road course or a street course, it doesn't matter to me.
Q. I guess a lot of people thought that some guys would be leery of ovals. What is the pure attraction of the oval for you, Kenny, because of the feel or the speed or what?
KENNY BRACK: I think oval racing is -- it is a very difficult thing to learn at first because of the high speeds. You really -- it's a shocking experience. I still remember the first time I set foot on an oval. It was in Phoenix in 1997 and I was testing with the -- Galles in IRL, and I could never -- I mean, being from Europe we didn't think much of the ovals because it's only a couple of turns and no lefthanders, and you couldn't be lefty to go right but when you first get to an oval and you start testing you are thinking, you know, get going and you don't realize how fast you got to go to be competitive between two concrete walls. That is a very intimidating feeling the first couple of days. And the good drivers get over it and get on with the program and the ones who don't, well, you know, they get that pretty written on their nose.
Q. I was asking you the other day about whether you felt like you have got that solid effort behind you to go for the Championship. It wasn't like -- it wasn't a slam at your team or anything. I am just wondering though, you know, it seems like everything is -- has come to fruition here from the standpoint of you all thought you would have a real great, really solid car on the ovals and you do. Of course, you were a little bit maybe surprised to a certain extent by how strong your car was on the first couple of road courses or street courses. I am just wondering has that given you like a really solid feeling right now about what you have got under you? You understand what I am saying, about going into the rest of the season?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, I think -- it's true that leading into the season after the winter testing and stuff we kind of felt that we had a really good oval package with the Lola Ford, but we felt maybe that our street road course package with Shell Ford wasn't -- wasn't as strong as we would have liked, maybe, but then come to the first race in Mexico and we sat on the pole and led the race until we had an electronic glitch hampering us, we feel very pretty good about the chances right now. And I think -- I mean it is a competitive series, make no mistake about that and things change during a season, but we were all working, very determined to keep improving and developing and try to stay ahead of the race and that's why we do these things. So I think we have a good chance. We just got to keep our momentum, keep our focus, and keep building on the success we have and keep strengthening our weaknesses.
MERRILL CAIN: With that, we will wrap it up for today. I would like to thank Kenny Brack for joining us this afternoon. Kenny, again, congratulation on the weekend last week at Motegi. Best of luck in the Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 3rs and for the remainder of the season.
KENNY BRACK: Thanks. I appreciate that very much.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank to all of you who took the time to participate in the CART Media Teleconference and have a good day.
KENNY BRACK: Thank you.
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