Kenny Brack has the credentials of a winner, as he is both the Indy Racing League's 1998 champion and victor in the 1999 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. After a three-year hiatus from the League, Brack returned to action this year with Team Rahal, a newcomer to the IndyCar Series but no stranger to Victory Lane.
"I think people were surprised by the competitiveness of the [Ilmor-built] Honda engine at the start of the season, considering how late the deal came together," Kenny allowed in a conversation from his home in Sweden. "They shouldn't have been, if they'd looked at past results. After all, Honda has been very competitive in almost every endeavor and so have Ilmor, who build Mercedes-Benz engines for Formula One."
During the early part of the year, Brack and Team Rahal hung around the top five in IndyCar Series points, but a series of three mechanical failures - at Michigan, Gateway and Kentucky - threw them behind the eight ball. Brack rebounded with a solid fifth-place showing at Nazareth Speedway a couple of weeks ago and currently holds seventh place points.
That's not where he wants to be. "For most of the season, we've been pretty consistent, but the longer you go without a DNF, the more likely you are to have one," he chuckled. "We have had some mechanical issues but hope to bounce back for the final three races," starting with this weekend's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Where once the Indy Racing League was the province of single car teams, a look at the top of the point standings show a proliferation of multi-car squads in 2003, from Team Penske to Team Target, Andretti Green Racing, Kelley Racing, Mo Nunn Racing et al. The only interlopers in that successful group are Team Rahal and Pennzoil Panther Racing.
"While we've got excellent personnel, we have no experience with the cars and tracks. We're building day by day to win races and be a championship contender. I think we're the best new one-car team. We've done a good job but we need to get better," he said. "As a one-car team, we must be more precise in our testing and this is more difficult than it is for a multi- car team."
Brack is hoping for an evergreen ending to the 2003 season, which features three large ovals at Chicagoland (1.5-mile), the two-mile California Speedway and the high banks of 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. "Obviously I'd like to win all three races but realistically, a top-five finish in all three would be a tremendous ending" to the year.
Knowing how the Indy Racing League once ran and what it's like today gives Brack a unique perspective. "I can't see a series more competitive than this one in the world. Everybody has [essentially] the same material to work with and we're all so very closely matched," he remarked. "We have big-name teams now and big-name drivers in the League with the field over 20 cars. We're so equal and so competitive.
"Previously," Brack recalled, "there were not that many good teams and drivers. Before, if you had a bad day, you'd be 7th or 8th while today, if that happens, you're 17th or 18th - and it doesn't take much to go up or down the standings. The emphasis is on the best setups, best use of Firestone Firehawk tires and remember, we only have something like two or two and a half hours to fine-tune our cars (during a race weekend).
"The Indy Racing League's tech regulations have created an equal environment," according to Kenny. "You need all things lined up just so" to be successful in 2003. "The technical package allows side-by-side racing, and it's so close. If you don't have everything lined up, you go backwards."
Everyone needs some way to let off steam and relax from the intense pressures of being an IndyCar driver; Brack has his music and his band, Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers. Created at the start of the year with Brack on lead guitar, Mo Nunn Racing public relations pro Laz Denes on rhythm and singer Kathy Prather, who does public relations for Greg Ray and Access Motorsports, KB and the Subwoofers have four pro musicians who work with them in their endeavor to entertain race-goers.
The gigs have proved immensely popular all season long and, in fact, sponsors Pioneer and Miller Lite have produced a CD from the group's Nashville gig that will come out later this week, benefiting CARA Charities in Indianapolis. "We've had as many as 10,000 people on hand to hear us play and those four [pros] are such tremendous musicians, they help us sound pretty good!" Making the CD was "a fun project" for Kenny and his six band mates. "I hope we bring good money in for CARA Charities."
In the race car, Kenny "shuts out everything else. Being in the band is something different. When you make a mistake mid-song, no one else really hears it but the members of the band. It's not quite the same when you make a mistake in the car," he admitted. "Music is very relaxing for me. It's my golf, I guess, and it really [playing in the band] doesn't affect the race weekend, even when we play 4-5 hours before a race."
Brack is pleased with the final product of the CD mixed for CARA Charities. "Normally, there's a lot of mixing done in studio from a live performance, but the product we've got isn't changed much. I think - I hope people will enjoy it."
"We need to get to the track with the car pretty much good off the truck. If it's not, we have to work to find setups and with so little track time, it's easy to get behind. That's no surprise" to Brack, who's been racing in the upper echelons of open wheel motorsports for about 15 years.
Reunited with race engineer Don Halliday, who helped architect Brack's highly successful 2001 season, when he nearly captured the CART title taken by the soon-to-retire Gil de Ferran, Kenny Brack feels he and Team Rahal have all the right pieces in place to be successful. "I sure haven't lost my motivation and I've got the drive to win."
"I get along well with Don and everybody on Team Rahal, from chief mechanic Ricardo Nault on to the guys who drive the truck. We all work well together." All they need is a little luck it appears, to break through to Victory Lane for the first time this season. There are only three opportunities remaining for Kenny Brack, Team Rahal and partners Pioneer and Miller Lite and he believes: "We have everything we need to win."