When it's all said and done, Kenny Brack's mastery of one-mile ovals could very
well be the difference maker in his quest for his first CART FedEx
Championship. The affable young Swede maintained his points lead Sunday, winning the Target Grand Prix at Chicago Motor Speedway.
"It's like stealing candy from children with this car on one-mile ovals," said Brack in Victory Lane.
True enough. Brack's Shell Team Rahal Ford operation is in a groove. But it is Brack that is capitalizing on the tools that he has been given.
When CART announced to the drivers that they would be allowed to put their
left wheels under the white boundary line that delineated the inside of the
1.029 mile oval, Brack set about getting his car to work there.
"CART told us what we could do and I practiced that move this morning," Brack
chuckled. Passing was at a premium at Chicago and Brack's practice "below the
line" paid off on a restart near the halfway mark when he was able to make
his car stick there and pass Helio Castroneves.
It's that kind of proactive attention that puts the 1999 Indy 500 champion a
rung above some of his peers.
Brack is meticulous. Following each race, the rock guitarist dashes off a
detailed memo to his team citing what was both good and bad with his
weekend's performance. When he ran for A.J. Foyt on the Indy Racing Northern
Light circuit, Foyt first thought the practice was a bit anal.
But, in 1998, after Brack and Foyt's Power Team operation ran off three wins
in a row on the way to their IRL Championship, Foyt eagerly anticipated them.
In many ways, Brack reminds me of Rick Mears. Like the four-time "500" champ,
Brack wants to know every detail. He listens to his mechanics and engineers,
but also schemes, plots and devises ways to gain an edge.
Whenever a team switches chassis designs (as Team Rahal did this year from
Reynard to this season's Lolas) there is often a steep learning curve. But
not so with Brack. He used the same sort of detailed analysis to flatten that
process that he used in Chicago to pass Castroneves.
Little is left to chance. Previously, Brack pointed out the wealth of
information that he has learned during his stints with two of the sport's
most impressive owner/drivers -- A.J. Foyt and Bobby Rahal. It most likely
accounts for his impressive one-mile record.
Room on a one-miler is fleeting. You are constantly in race traffic and track
position is critical. Short pitting, tire conservation and fuel strategy
often make the difference. While the personalities of Rahal and Foyt are at
polar opposites, their thought processes often lead to the same end result.
Brack's immediate future centers around becoming the first Indy car driver to
win both the Indy Racing league and CART FedEx Champ car titles. With a bit
of luck and his attention to detail, the odds are much better than even that
It would not surprise me though if before his contract with Team Rahal
expires, he dashes off a memo to his boss about Bobby's other job, head of
Jaguar's Formula One program, offering his services as a driver.