CART Media Conference
March 5, 2002
MODERATOR: I'm glad to be here with you guys. Thank you for showing up today. Getting a little misty-eyed in the days when I used to do this every week for CART. We have Kenny Brack with us today. Obviously, Kenny is new to the Target Team for the 2002 season. He enters the year as the winningest driver from CART last year when he had four victories. Former IRL champion, former Indianapolis 500 champion, and we're hoping he can soon add the title of CART champion to him. With that, other than saying hello to Kenny, any opening thoughts for today?
KENNY BRACK: No. I think it's a good day to do an interview (laughter).
MODERATOR: Why don't we get underway then. Open it up for questions for Kenny.
Q. Last year you came close to a title. Just tell me, I know it's unfair to ask you who is your competition, but talk a little bit maybe about Cristiano and others you think are going to be in the hunt for the title this year.
KENNY BRACK: Well, you know, it's like always: it's always going to be a tough race. Hard to win races in CART. I believe there's nobody out there that's not competitive in this series. There's 20 first-class drivers with as many good cars and engines and stuff like that. So it's extremely difficult to win. You know, in the beginning of the season like this, I guess no one really knows who's going to be the competition to beat. But I'd say that judging from testing and so forth, I think you're looking at -- I think you're looking at Newman/Haas as a very strong team. I think you look at Team Players. Team Rahal, of course. I think you'd have to put ourselves in there, Team Target. I think that Team Green, you know, is strong. There you have the teams I think that in my opinion will be the toughest. But, as I said, there's bound to be people and teams that going to come up and surprise everyone. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q. How is it going in testing with Bruno? You've got to get used to a new team, got to get used to a new teammate? How did that work out?
KENNY BRACK: I think it's going good. You know, we've been doing quite a few test days, both me and Bruno. It seems to work out fine so far. You know, I didn't expect us to be having boxing matches (laughter). You know, we're going forward and we're working together to develop the cars and the equipment we have.
Q. Talk a little bit about the difference, you came from a different engine package last year to the Toyota this year. How is it different? How do you think the Toyota is better?
KENNY BRACK: It's always tough to compare from one year to another. You know, we've had change in the regulations again, boost have been dropped, so forth. I feel we have a very strong engine package this year. I think Toyota is at the forefront when it comes to developing the engine that we have. I think over the year, you'll see that, you know, the development will be done very rapidly. They spend enormous resources on developing the hard and the software. I think they're well-positioned also when it comes to the new allowance -- the new stuff that we have this year in traction control. They have a lot of technicians and a lot of skill to be able to develop that properly. So I think we're looking good. The problem, of course, is that it's not only me and Bruno who's got the Toyota, it's nine, ten drivers (laughter). It's not like we have any advantage over the other team. We're pretty much in the same boat, you know, with a lot of other teams and drivers. But still, I think the Toyota will be the engine to beat this year.
Q. Have you had any time to practice with the traction control?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah. We've done a couple of days so far, you know, since it was voted in that we going to use it. We're not at a stage right now, I don't think, where we have developed -- we've only scratched the surface of it so far. But, you know, the developments are underway now. I guess all the engine manufacturers are working very hard on getting it developed as rapid as possible.
Q. Based on what you did last year, with Team Penske being gone now, should you in all right be considered the favorite for the title this season?
KENNY BRACK: Excuse me, can you say that again?
Q. Based on how you performed last year and with Team Penske no longer in the picture, based on that, should you be considered the early favorite for the title this season?
KENNY BRACK: No. I never look at stuff that way. You know, I look at it simply like prepare myself the best I can and, you know, working with the team to prepare ourselves the best we can. I'm with a great team in Team Target, Chip Ganassi. It's a fantastic team. They've got a lot of championships already. They have a lot of resources. The guys are really hungry. But, you know, if you go out there thinking you're the favorite and, you know, "We're going to win this thing," that's end up line Sweden in the hockey game when you lose when you don't expect to lose. I think the thing is, I prepare myself that we're going to have to work the hardest to win this thing, and we'll see where we end up. But I think we have the same possibilities to win as the other major opponents in the championship.
Q. A lot of Indy Racing League drivers and owners, they talk about their commitment to the IRL philosophy. I'm wondering if you could talk about some of the changes that have taken place in this past off-season and why you believe or don't believe in the direction that CART is going?
KENNY BRACK: I believe in the direction CART is going. I think, you know, it's a great series. If you look at the on-track product, I believe you won't find another racing series in the world where you have as much competition and different tracks to race on. This is the series where the team and the driver, they've got to be good at four different type of tracks. It's extremely difficult to achieve that. Also when you're not allowed to test a lot, it's not an easy task. As far as the political side of CART, I don't really -- I try not to get involved in that because it's something that simply doesn't win or lose me any races, you know. If you look at the -- if you focus on what CART is on the track, I think you see that it doesn't have any competitors really, if you look at it.
Q. How would you classify some of the changes that have been made to the series for this season? Good changes? Bad changes? My understanding is that Chris Pook basically asked all the drivers what kind of changes they would like to see. Can you talk a little bit about that and why maybe this approach is a good approach?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I mean, you never really know until you start running, you know, because you sit down and you think of all the scenarios, this and that. But, you know, it doesn't matter how much you think. When you get in the race situation, there's always some amazing things that come up that you couldn't foresee. The changes that they've made in terms that's going to affect, I think, the competitors. First of all, the qualifying format is different. I think it has a lot of merit. We'll have to wait and see till we've done a couple races what downsides, if any, there is to that system now. But, sure, it's good for keeping the interest in the series because you going to have qualifying on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. It's going to be, you know, something for people to notice and write about. As far as the, you know, fuel strategy or pit stop strategy, the differences from last year to this year, I think it's got merit, too. It's a good way to do it. If it's going to work out like everyone is thinking it's going to work out, we'll have to wait and see till a couple races into the season. But I think it's got merit. You know, it's going to be, you know, more difficult for a back marker team to luck out with pit strategy. I'm sure there will be some kind of pit strategy involved anyway, but we just don't know to what extent yet. I guess those are the two major things that we changed really.
Q. You kind of touched on the different tracks, the different lengths of tracks, style of tracks that the drivers have to compete on in CART. Just wanted to get your opinion, do you think the start of the season is a little street, road course heavy? Would you like to see a short or long oval mixed in early on in the season?
KENNY BRACK: You know, I don't really care. I'm looking at the schedule as it is. I guess every competitor has to look at it that way, then prepare themselves for the program at hand. I don't think it would make a big difference, you know, whether you had an oval like the second or third race, or if you have road racing because you sort of do what's necessary. That's it really. I mean, for us, we're also going to do the Indy 500 so we're going to have plenty of oval running up until June or whatever.
Q. Looking a little ahead to Long Beach, last year it seemed like you had a really strong car and a really strong running until you had problems in the pits.
KENNY BRACK: Well, it wasn't problems in the pits. We broke a drive shaft.
Q. At any rate, do you feel you have any unfinished business at Long Beach that you want to go back and have a strong showing?
KENNY BRACK: Racing is only unfinished business (laughter). So, yeah, you know, it doesn't matter. Even if you win a race, you still want to go back and win it again. Like Mexico, I feel like going there and winning it, I feel like going to Long Beach and winning it. Long Beach is a classic American race. It's the one road race over here that's got all the history to it, you know, that makes for a big race. So, obviously, to win that race would be great, you know, definitely.
Q. What are your thoughts on today's announcement about Miami?
KENNY BRACK: Maybe I don't even know about the announcement.
Q. It was announced that CART would be racing there this year in October.
KENNY BRACK: That's great news.
Q. I guess you've never raced in the city streets of Miami.
KENNY BRACK: I have. And I won a Barber Saab race there. Actually, that was the first race I ever did in the United States which was, I believe, February of '93 or something like that, downtown Miami, together with I think it was IMSA at the time, wasn't it?
Q. May have been.
KENNY BRACK: Yeah.
Q. I believe it was a Toyota win.
KENNY BRACK: That's possible. I won that race. That was the first race I ever did. So, yeah, I've been racing there. It's a great town.
Q. With regard to the new rules, there's been some questions asked already. The one thing I've seen in these rules is the ability to pretty much go flat out because of the way the pit stops are going to be scheduled, no limitation on fuel. As a driver, does that make you happy to be able to run without worrying about saving fuel, going 100%?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I think, yeah, that's going to be good because that means, you know, that if you're doing a good qualifying effort and you have a good car, you will be able to -- the race result should reflect that. I think that sometimes, you know, like in the previous years sometimes if you have a bad car or whatever, you can sometimes by pure luck basically get the race win. We saw that several times last year. Now, I don't know whether there's such a thing as a flat-out, straightforward pit strategy. There's always going to be strategies and some luck will be involved because of the yellows, how they fall and stuff, I believe. But I think to a lot less extent this year. That's the thought behind it anyway.
Q. I guess my understanding was that you had to stop within a window. They give you a certain window of laps where you have to stop.
KENNY BRACK: That's correct. And that is based upon fuel consumption, so they know that, okay, if you have this fuel consumption, you can go so many laps on full fuel, then if you want to go any further, you have to start saving. This is based upon you have to stop within the window of going full all the time. You can't go any further; you have to stop.
Q. Do you notice any difference in power with the boost reduction this year? Is it noticeable?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, it's less power, obviously. They've reduced the boost from 37 to 34. So, yeah, we have a little less power. The cars are a little slower in the straight line speeds. As always, the development goes quickly forward, and I'm expecting to see, you know, increases in the power over the season. You know, we're ready from last year to this year's chassis, there's more down force, so the cars are better. Lap time-wise, I think, I don't know, we'll be quite close to last year's lap times.
Q. Talk about the Target Ganassi team. We were talking to your Winston Cup counterpart, Stewart, a couple weeks ago. He said from the time that he first walked in the door, it felt as though he was with a winning organization that only talked about winning. Talk about the feeling that you've received since you've been there.
KENNY BRACK: It's a great team. You know, there's a bunch of guys here that, you know, they want to win, that's all they want to do. They have experience in winning. You know, they won a lot. It's a great group of people. I mean, it's kind of a -- it's a bigger organization than what I'm used to. But, you know, they have managed to sort of get a good bunch of guys, although there are quite a few of them here. I'm looking forward to it. They have a lot of information from previous years, different drivers, different driving styles, all that stuff. You know, I hope that I can gel real good with this team and win a lot of races this year, obviously.
Q. Other than the fact that it's a bigger team, is there any kind of other difference that you see with this team?
KENNY BRACK: Well, all the teams want to win, you know. I think, like I say, the difference in this team is that they have a very good organization and they've been proven to be very successful in the past. They can still be very successful. They are very successful. You know, the driver's job is to try to, you know, get in there and get to know everybody, acclimatize yourself to the team you're in and try to take advantage of everything.
Q. What kind of emotions do you take from last season? Job undone? What did you feel in the season when it was over?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I mean, I got to say that we had a fantastic season, no matter how you look at it. We won four races. That was more than any other did in the series. We took six posts. That was more than any other did in the series. We led the most laps. You know, I guess no matter how you look at it, it was a very successful season. Difficult to beat those statistics. You know, we didn't win the championship. You know, that's obviously the end-of-the-year reward if you do a real good job. That's what we didn't do. Of course, that feels hard to deal with. But still, we've got to try again. I think I'm in a great operation in Team Target, Chip Ganassi Racing, to try to, you know, accomplish that goal.
Q. If you could, talk a little bit about last year, the way racing was last year, the way that it promises to be this year? Do you kind of consider this a make-or-break year in terms of the circuit, maybe these changes were necessary to kind of take it a step forward?
KENNY BRACK: You know, I don't think in terms of the on-track action there will be a make or break. I mean, if you look at the 20 races we did last year, I'd say that you see plenty of action. I say you see plenty of, you know, controversy and all that stuff that makes it interesting. But certainly I think that the changes that they've done hopefully will be bringing even better, closer racing. I don't know if it's possible or not, but certainly it will be in a different way this year.
Q. In a sense, has the organization become stodgy, stagnant maybe in terms of how things were being done, that it required some driver input and maybe some input from someone who knows the sport very well?
KENNY BRACK: I don't think CART's problem last year was the on-track product. I think it was on other levels of it. But, you know, I think that Chris Pook has brought a lot of stuff along, I mean, a lot of positive energy. I sense that from media and from everybody, that there's a lot of positive energy around CART know, where last year, I guess mainly from the media, it was kind of maybe negative energy. So that's changed a lot. I think that you'll see a lot of good on-track racing this year, as always.
Q. I talked to a couple of drivers, and with traction control in this year, it's probably not going to make a huge difference by most accounts, but some drivers are telling me they will be able to adjust their driving style more to what they're used to. Would you concur with that?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I'd say that for me, I'd like to adjust the traction control to my driving style. I think traction control on the level that we have it right now, I don't think that it will enhance the lap time. It might do, you know, after a few months or a year when we get more used to it and develop it more. But right now I think it's going to maybe help you. Let's say you're in a qualifying lap, maybe you push hard, you take a chance, and coming off a hairpin, whatever, all of a sudden you give it too much throttle. You just get wheel spin. Well, in that situation, I think that the traction control comes in and helps you. Instead of losing two-tenths because you have too much for a split second, the traction control helps you catch it so you may lose half a tenth or a tenth of a second. I think it can help you in that way. I think that maybe it will perhaps sometimes help you basically in situations like that, which can be helpful, of course.
Q. With Bridgestone being the tire of the series this year, have you noticed any changes, if any, to the tire?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, they changed lettering on the side from Firestone to Bridgestone.
Q. That's about it?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, I think so (laughter). I don't know, there might be other changes, too. I'd say that the tires are, you know, to me identical. As you know, Bridgestone owns Firestone, so I guess it's a marketing situation. I think they're identical, yeah.
Q. What's happening with your band?
KENNY BRACK: I don't know. It is rock'n roll. It's a little fickle. I don't know. We'll see. To be honest with you, I've been pretty busy this year getting everything up and running, getting acclimatized to the new surroundings and everything. I haven't really thought about the rock'n roll stuff yet. Once we get underway, if things work out fine, we'll see if we may put the band back together.
Q. You know I ask for the joke.
KENNY BRACK: I know you, I saw you out there in California and everything. Were you invited to the back stage party?
Q. You've driven for some very strong-willed owners. Maybe Bob is the best at not showing it on TV. Tell us about your working relationship with Chip now compared to AJ.
KENNY BRACK: Well, there's definitely some differences between the owners that I've driven for. I think that one common deal is that they all want to win. I think AJ obviously was very charismatic owner. Bobby is in his way, too. I expect Chip to be a great owner. He's a very charismatic owner, too. I haven't yet raced for Chip. You know, I know all he wants to do with his racing is win. He loves winning. That's the best thing you can have in an owner. I expect a good relationship, and he's a great guy.
MODERATOR: Kenny, thank you for joining us today.
KENNY BRACK: Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|