GK on Brack

It's tough to stand out from the crowd in CART where ever more restrictive technical rules mean many drivers and teams have a chance to win on any weekend. Yet in the first quarter of this year's twenty-race Champ car season Kenny Brack has done exactly that, overshadowing the accomplishments of Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and season-opening victor Cristiano da Matta

GK on Brack

The 35-year old Brack has won the last two Champ car races, both on ovals, and heads into a string of four temporary circuit, or road races, as a clear championship leader over Castroneves, da Matta, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser. Brack is a sharp-witted, highly-motivated fellow who does a tremendous amount of homework and pre-race preparation. He's built an excellent rapport with the engineers and working hands at Bobby Rahal's Ohio-based team and established himself as both Team Rahal's and Ford/Cosworth's strongest bow by far in CART.

"I have good feelings about Detroit," Brack says, "because it's Ford's home race and we're a Ford team, so I hope that we can go there and put on a good show. I won a race there already in 1993 running Barber-Saab en route to winning the championship, but last year I had a rough time in Detroit. I spun off two or three times during the weekend and only managed to do eight or 10 laps in the race, so that wasn't one of my highlights of last year's season (laughing). It's a fun track, but it's very difficult to pass on so it's important to have a good qualifying effort."

Brack says his gameplan for the forseeable future is to try to win as many races as possible. "I never had any goals of leading the championship at any point except trying to be as high up as possible in the end. It's difficult to say you're going to win the championship because a lot of things can happen during the year, but my goal going into the season was to win races and that's all there is to it. If you win races, the other things will come.

"If you're fortunate enough to have things go your way even when you're not winning races, you get good finishes. If you're not, you can win races and you may not win the championship anyway. For me, this has been a very successful season. We've been on the pace everywhere we've been and we've won two races, so it's great."

Does Brack give any consideration to scoring points rather than winning races? "No, I race the same way I always race and that's flat out. If I was in this situation with three races to go, yeah, then I would change it because it would be stupid not to, but until that point I'm going to race the way I've always raced and that's 100 percent."

Are the transmission or clutch problems solved that Brack encountered on the road circuits in the Mexican season-opener and at Long Beach in April? "We learned that we had some problems in the first one, and we've rectified those hopefully. In the second one we had some problems too, and we have rectified those too, we think (laughing). Hopefully, we're going to go to Detroit with all these problems rectified and finish! (still laughing)"

The course on Detroit's Belle Isle leaves little room for passing so that fuel mileage, pitstop strategy and track position are all-important at this race. Brack has worked closely with Cosworth's engineers to improve fuel mileage.

"I came on board last year having never seen or driven a Champ Car, but I felt that we could do more work when it came to the driveability of the engine and stuff like that. We started that process last fall, and we got a chance to do some work and immediately found some improvements. I worked with Bruce (Wood) and the guys in England and at (cell) 17G in Detroit, and they are a very responsive group of engineers that I have a very good relationship with. It's a lot of fun to develop these things, but it's not a one-way street.

"I feel what I need in the car and if I don't tell the engineers they can't make the change. I've been trying to be quite analytical about it to find what we can do to improve the engine, and we've had good communication between us. They've improved everything we talked about and that's the result that we are seeing.

"We sat on the pole in Mexico on a very slippery track, and I think it's safe to say that a year or two years ago that would've been very difficult with the way the engine had performed under those conditions. The ability has always been with the Ford, but they probably haven't had that information fed to them, and now, I believe that we have the best package out there. Ford's engine is more powerful than the others, and has shown better driveability so far this season. We're going to continue improving and pushing hard, but that's a major accomplishment when you look at the competition."

For his part, Brack hopes to win again this weekend prior to flying to New York City for a Tuesday night gig on team co-owner David Letterman's Light Show. Brack is an enthusiastic amateur rock 'n roll and blues guitarist and will play as a session man on Tuesday night in Paul Shaffer's "Late Show Band".

Five CART drivers, Brack not included, tested further engine and aerodynamic restrictions at the Michigan Speedway this week in preparation for July's Michigan 500 at the high-banked superspeedway. Does Brack agree there's a need to slow-down the cars at Michigan?

"Well, that depends. If you want to be within (the speeds) that we were last year, then yeah, you need to slow them down because the developments over the winter have been tremendous and speeds have risen considerably. I think one of the reasons they're having the test is to see where we're at with speeds and try to make sure that we're not going over the limits.

"I think it's fun when the cars go fast, but I mean... If you look at the speeds and how fast we're going, it's not necessary to go that fast from a "show" standpoint. What CART's trying to do is keep speeds under control because it doesn't necessarily make for a better show. We're still the fastest racing in the world and we don't need to go any faster. All major series take steps to keep the speeds under control. It's done in CART, it's done in NASCAR, IRL, Formula 1, they all try to keep the speeds at an acceptable level and that's what CART's trying to do."

One of the most remarkable things about Brack's ascendancy has been team boss Bobby Rahal's absence from most races as Rahal occupies himself primarily with Jaguar's Formula 1 programme. Rahal will be in Detroit this weekend, as he was at Milwaukee two weeks ago, before focusing his efforts for most of the remainder of the season on F1.

Meanwhile, Rahal's CART team is doing a fine job under the direction of general manager Scott Roembke and engineering chief Don Halliday. As always, it's a team effort that brings results, and in today's world no one man is responsible, except maybe the final link in the chain, the driver!

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