CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Track Talk - Miami

HILLIARD, OH . . . "Mad Max" Papis is a man on a mission as the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series opens this Sunday with the Grand Prix of Miami (ESPN - 4:30 PM ET). Papis will be looking to continue his dominance of the ovals of CART with one...

HILLIARD, OH . . . "Mad Max" Papis is a man on a mission as the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series opens this Sunday with the Grand Prix of Miami (ESPN - 4:30 PM ET). Papis will be looking to continue his dominance of the ovals of CART with one notable difference, this time he plans to stand on the top step of the podium as the winner.

In the last three oval races that CART ran in 1999 (Michigan, Chicago & Fontana), Papis posted a seventh place finish after leading 143 laps at MIS, a pole and a fourth place result at Chicago and a front row start with a runner-up effort at Fontana. At Michigan fate robbed Papis of his first CART win when his Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard ran dry of fuel less than a mile from the checkered flag. Notable with his ever improving results is the manner in which Papis dominated those three races. In the last three ovals races Papis has led 43% of the laps run (318 of 725) nearly twice as many any other driver.

"I feel that my first win should have already come last year, there is no doubt about it," said Papis. "We started building towards it over the second-half last year. At the beginning of last season we had to be patient because things need to come into place for us as a team. Towards the end of last year things came together and we were up there challenging for the lead and wins. I really feel, before thinking of anything like fighting for Championship, that you need to think about winning first. I have not done that yet. I came close on a couple of occasions. I am very, very confident that it will be my time and I really feel that it could be very soon. If we focus on running consistently at the front of the field, winning and ultimately the championship will take care of themselves."

Papis consistent approach was a success for him in 1999. In his first season in the Miller Lite car for Team Rahal, Papis established CART career marks in every statistical category. He led the series in running finishes with 18 as well as in laps and miles completed. He finished second in laps led and collected 11 top-five results including three podium appearances in the last four races en route to a career best fifth place finish in the points. Over the last four races of the 1999 season no other driver accumulated more points than Papis (59).

Could there be a win at Miami in his near future? "You never know, maybe Homestead will be the one, you never know," said the Miami Beach resident. "I feel that I have been working pretty hard towards my goals and my goal for this year is to continue being competitive and to improve on my results from last year. Last year my goal was to finish in the top-five, this year, those top-fives should get transformed into more podium finishes, which I think should produce a pretty good season for me."

Brack Ready For His CART Debut

Finally, after four and a half months of anticipation, Kenny Brack can get down to business this weekend when he makes his CART debut for Team Rahal in the Shell Ford-Cosworth/Reynard. Brack comes to CART as the most highly anticipated rookie since Nigel Mansell came to the series in 1993. Brack is anything but a typical rookie bringing with him the 1998 IRL Championship and the 1999 Indianapolis 500 crown.Finally after four and a half months of anticipation Kenny Brack can get down to business this weekend when he makes his CART debut for Team Rahal in the Shell Ford-Cosworth/Reynard. Brack comes to CART as the most highly anticipated rookie since Nigel Mansell came to the series in 1993. Brack is anything but a typical rookie bringing with him the 1998 IRL Championship and the 1999 Indianapolis 500 crown.

"What I have done in the past doesn't matter once the season starts," said Brack. "I am proud of what I have accomplished, but when the green flag falls at Miami I will be just another rookie driver in CART facing the same challenges any newcomer to the series would face. I have to admit I have felt like a kid waiting on Christmas morning the last few weeks. I can't remember the last time I was this excited for a season to begin."

After having raced the last three-seasons exclusively on ovals, Brack is glad that the season opens on the 1.5 mile oval of Homestead Speedway. "There is a comfort factor for me in running my first CART race on an oval, after all that is what I have raced on for the last several years. Plus Homestead is a track where we have been able to test several times and be successful."

Brack and his Team Rahal teammate Max Papis were certainly successful at Homestead during CART's Spring Training in early February. Papis and Brack posted the four fastest laps of the two-day test and one of the Team Rahal cars topped the speed charts at the end of each of the four practice sessions. Brack and his Team Rahal teammate Max Papis were certainly successful at Homestead during CART's Spring Training in early February. Papis and Brack posted the four fastest laps of the two-day test and one of the Team Rahal cars topped the speed charts at the end of each of the four practice sessions.

Brack knows that the results from February are meaningless come this Sunday. "I said in February that it was nice to be on the top of the speed chart, but face it come Sunday those results are worthless."

Old Faces In New Places For Team Rahal

The Grand Prix of Miami will mark the first race for Team Rahal's "new look race team." In addition to a repainted Shell car and a new driver in Kenny Brack, several familiar faces have changed places for the race team in 2000. "We had some opportunities that presented themselves for some of our key individuals," said Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal. "When we began looking at how best to fill the positions we found the best people for the jobs were the people we already had at the team. I feel the whole process has revitalized the team. I am proud of the way these individuals have stepped forward to meet their new challenges. I have always felt that our people are a strength of this organization."The Grand Prix of Miami will mark the first race for Team Rahal's newlookraceteam. In addition to a repainted Shell car and a new driver in Kenny Brack, several familiar faces have changed places for the race team in 2000.

Larry Ellert and Jim Prescott, the chief mechanics for the Shell and Miller teams in 1999, assumed the position of Race Team Manager and Shop Manager respectively in December. In their place Sean Hanrahan (Miller team) and Ricardo Nault (Shell team) the lead mechanics for the race teams last year have been elevated to the chief mechanics positions in 2000. Larry Ellert and Jim Prescott, the chief mechanics for the Shell and Miller teams in 1999, assumed the position of Race Team Manager and Shop Manager respectively in December. In their place Sean Hanrahan (Miller team) and Ricardo Nault (Shell team) the lead mechanics for the race teams last year have been elevated to the chief mechanics positions in 2000.

The changes are not limited to the race crews. Ray Leto, the Shell race engineer for the Shell team last year became Team Rahal's Technical Coordinator, coordinating the team's numerous engineering projects.

Veteran race engineer Don Halliday joined the team after spending the last couple of seasons leading Dario Franchitti's championship challenges for Team Green. Halliday will serve as race engineer for Kenny Brack teaming with Team Rahal General Manager Scott Roembke in handling the strategy and race communication for the Shell car. Tim Reiter returns as the race engineer for Max Papis and will team with Bobby Rahal for strategy and communication for the Miller Lite team.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Kenny Brack , Nigel Mansell