IRL: Brack comes back for Indy 500

IRL: Brack comes back for Indy 500

Rahal Letterman Racing prides itself on being a team that is, to put it bluntly, insular. When Kenny Brack had his horrific accident in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season closer at Texas Motor Speedway in October of 2003, the team ...

Rahal Letterman Racing prides itself on being a team that is, to put it bluntly, insular.

When Kenny Brack had his horrific accident in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season closer at Texas Motor Speedway in October of 2003, the team immediately chose for his substitute Buddy Rice, a driver they'd had under contract since his 2000 Toyota Atlantic Championship season.

Kenny Brack.
Photo by Dana Garrett - IRL.
In a twist of fate, when Rice sustained a mid-back contusion, mild concussion and partially torn spinal ligament to his middle/lower neck area, Bobby Rahal called on 1999 Indy champion Brack to return to the team and race in the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in relief of 2004 Indy winner Rice.

What goes around comes around.

While Rahal was obviously "very disappointed when we found out Buddy would not be cleared to drive and feel badly for him, we had to go forward and somehow race." Rahal called the Swede, who continues to live in the Columbus area and asked him to return to the seat of the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone machine.

Brack was ready and willing, a year and a half after nearly losing his life in the same car. "I was surprised but I'd been following the situation. I thought Buddy would be okay for the race but since he's not, I have to thank the team for this opportunity. I've been with them a long time (since 2000) and they've been very supportive of me throughout.

"The big part of my decision to come into a situation like this is the fact that I know this team so well. I feel for Buddy," Brack re-stated, "but I kind of know just how he feels. I'll try to do the best job for Rahal Letterman Racing."

While physical conditioning is not as important at the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway as it would be for some of the other circuits on the IndyCar Series' 17-race calendar, Brack admitted he's been "pounding myself into shape over the past year. I am back to top condition," he declared after passing his IMS physical exam.

"I came to this team under similar circumstances," Rice reminded. "I believe Kenny has a shot at winning the race this year with this car and this team. He was a big help to us in 2004 with everything that happened in the season. Even when he couldn't drive the car, Kenny still came around the track and helped with our program."

Because Rice's situation vis-?-vis the neck injury must be evaluated prior to the League's June9-11 Bombardier 500K in Texas, Rahal has been asked the question of having a four-car team for the balance of the year, should Brack make a successful return to Indy competition.

"I don't think we're in a position to run four cars at this time," Rahal pondered. "As a team we have to make sure Buddy gets back to health as soon as possible and, after Memorial Day I don't think four cars are an option."

Rahal said Brack was at the top of his list; the team did consider "some other people pending Kenny's answer. We are going to make sure this is as easy as possible for Kenny. Scott [Roembke] and I have to keep everyone focused on the job," even with all the distractions the team has run into during this month of May.

Brack's wife Anita "has been very supportive" of his decision. "She knows I'm a racer and that I wanted to come back with a competitive opportunity. This happened for a reason," Brack declared. "I feel very positive about this."

While Brack realizes the physical nature of the Brickyard circuit isn't quite as demanding as other tracks, "This is a mentally tough track with all the changes to the car and conditions throughout 500 miles. When I was injured, my natural instinct was to get back in the car and I worked relentlessly in the gym, stuff like that. I wanted to get into race trim even if I wasn't racing."

In June of last year Brack and the Rahal Letterman Racing team tested on the 3/4-mile Richmond International Raceway oval to see if Brack was up to the task of driving Indy cars again. "I was quite fast at Richmond last year but I didn't feel physically fit then. It was only six months removed from the accident, after all. A year and a half later, I'm back."

Brack has been testing sports cars, Australian V-8 touring cars and raced in the Porsche Cup in his native Sweden. He was never retired from the sport, Rahal reminded. "It's not that we didn't want him for our team; we just didn't have an opportunity to put him in a car. Kenny is a guy who doesn't just drive fast; rather, he is methodical in all he does.

"Kenny came here to win. He was always ready to go but there was no opportunity until now. It's unfortunate for Buddy," Rahal acknowledged, "but we are very pleased to welcome Kenny Brack back to the Rahal Letterman Racing fold."

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Series INDYCAR