An interview with: Bobby Rahal Kenny Brack Part II How is the family taking life in England? BOBBY RAHAL: They all think it's Austin Powers. Kenny, Dr. Jerry Punch couldn't stop raving about you and the IROC cars. They say you're ...
An interview with:
How is the family taking life in England?
BOBBY RAHAL: They all think it's Austin Powers.
Kenny, Dr. Jerry Punch couldn't stop raving about you and the IROC cars. They say you're probably the best open-wheel in the series since Al. Talk about your experience and how you've been able to adapt to those cars where others have struggled? Jerry also talked that there could be a future for you on a one-race option.
KENNY BRACK: Well, first of all, that was very kind words of him, obviously. I think driving a stock car or IROC car is obviously very different from an open-wheel car. It's nothing you just jump in and, you know, do. You have to view it as a serious championship. That's what I've done. I mean, I probably ran more laps than most people in those cars, together with their test drivers, Dick Trickle, Dave Marcis, Jim Sauter, Andy Hillenburg all those. I tried to soak up as much information about those cars and how to run them, so forth, that I could during these races. I think that's part of the reason that I've been reasonably successful.
You know, it's very difficult to beat the NASCAR drivers. We do four races a year. They do that type of cars, that type of driving 37 races. Obviously, it's not that easy to just go in and beat them.
But I've been running up front. I think I was on the podium in three races or four this year. Had a fourth place. I think that was really good. I had hopes to try to win the series at Indy. I was really close. I guess third is not a disgrace either, considering only Bobby and Tony beat me.
I like driving those cars. I think it's a lot of fun. It's a series where the fun part is the only thing that's left there. All the settings, the driver don't set the cars up or anything. We just jump in and drive. That's the fun part.
It's a tremendous amount of fun to drive those races. You get to know people from different league series. I know people from the IRL obviously since before, but getting to know NASCAR drivers, the guys down there. That's interesting for me. I enjoy that environment, too. It's a nice little championship.
I really appreciate being in the championship because obviously it's very difficult to get asked to drive the IRL since you have to have whatever results in your normal sort of driving job. You've got to be one of the top guys in your league to be able to get invited, so it's a very exclusive group of drivers that you race against, which is a lot of fun.
As far as driving the options or anything, I don't have any options in NASCAR for the near future. I don't know where that comes from.
I know your boss is on the phone listening. I know you talked about learning from Dick Trickle, a lot of the test drivers. Was there one specific or maybe two specific drivers that you got close with, that you felt comfortable with, not only off the track, but following behind on the track?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I mean, we practiced and raced with obviously all the drivers that are in the series. I must say that all the Cup drivers have been fair. I've been comfortable running around. I guess it's the other way around: it's about getting them comfortable running around us open-wheel racers.
There's been a lot of talk that people sort of have an opinion that the Cup drivers don't run with the open-wheel drivers. I don't think that's the case. I think the case is that if any driver -- they run with any driver that can run properly in the stock cars, therefore you have to learn how to draft, how to position yourself, and also let people know that they can trust you if they going around on the outside, that you not going to push them up in the wall and stuff like that.
If you can establish that kind of trust, then they'll run with you. They'll run with anybody. In the last lap, you're nobody's friend, and nobody's your friend either.
T.E. McHALE: Kenny's performance in IROC, he finished third in the season finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. He also finished third in the championship, which was the highest championship finish in the open-wheel racer in the IROC series since 1996. Kenny, congratulations on that.
KENNY BRACK: Thank you.
Bobby, with CART not returning to Nazareth and to Michigan next season, do you envision CART possibly going to exclusively road and street course circuits? How do you see the races being replaced at Nazareth and Michigan?
BOBBY RAHAL: I have to say, I mean, I guess have to preface this by saying I suppose I achieved as much success on oval tracks as I did on road courses - at least it was pretty close.
Having said that, I think you can't argue with what seems to be the case or what appears to be the case, which is that open-wheel racing, with the exception of Indianapolis, open-wheel racing on oval tracks just doesn't seem to be working. California might be an exception to that, but I think that's just by virtue of obviously it's a crowd that enjoys racing of any type. Nevertheless, I think California Speedway looks to be a little bit unique.
You know, whether you go to Nazareth, whether you go to Michigan, I mean, Michigan, I don't care what category you're in, if that clearly isn't the greatest race in terms of quality of a show, I don't know what would be. Yet if you judged it by the people in the stands, and people do judge it by that, you'd say it was the worst event in the world. It's I guess confusing or baffling - maybe "baffling" is a better word - why that is. Nevertheless, that's it. You sort of juxtapose that with the crowds they get at Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Elkhart, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, Vancouver, the list goes on and I don't know. You have to say, "I think there's something to that."
I think the more unique CART makes itself compared to whether it's NASCAR or even IRL, that certainly causes you to look to events that will make it unique. I think, for example, next year the event in Denver is going to be a tremendously popular event, as it was ten years ago or so.
It just seems that that's the nature of the beast. So rather than trying to be something you aren't, I think you probably ought to try to maximize what you really are. It sure looks to me like that's the road courses, the street courses, things of that nature.
Kenny, what would your reaction be if the CART series were to go completely exclusively street and road courses?
KENNY BRACK: I mean, to me, I race whatever courses they have on the schedule. I mean, it's an extremely competitive championship. If you look at the teams, the drivers, you got 15, 20 situations out there that can win races. This year we've had like eight different winners or something like that in the race we've had.
I mean, it's just great to be part of such a competitive situation. That's what's mattered the most to me. If it's street courses, road courses, ovals, I don't care. I'm there to try to win races. I'm proud to be able to win races in the situation that's competitive. I'm proud of my team here that's been able to be that competitive. That's all I care about.
Bobby, could you update me with the status with Buddy Rice?
BOBBY RAHAL: I guess really not much has happened to date. Obviously, we're still quite interested in Buddy, but I don't know. This is a period of time, as sponsorships are solidified, plans are made, situations like Buddy's become clearer.
Obviously, we wouldn't have done this just to do it. While it's a little bit frustrating for Buddy I'm sure to feel like you're sort of in purgatory, nevertheless our interest is genuine. We're going to see what happens I would suspect in the next 30 days we'll have a pretty good idea of where things will stand.
Have you ever said the date by which you have to exercise that option?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think that's details in the contract and there's obviously confidentiality issues with that. I really can't say.
Certainly there's a date, because it's not fair to anybody to be kept, you know, being out there waiting. Our interest in Buddy goes beyond just him potentially being a driver for us someday. My interest is to see him, you know, achieve his goals and to be one of the more successful American drivers in open-wheel racing, CART, in this country. There's nothing to be gained by sort of keeping somebody out there hanging. Usually option dates do have a triggering date to make -- for someone to make a decision one way or the other.
Bobby, a colleague from The Oregonian had a question, rumor in the press room is that you were in 2002 the third team like Jerry Forsythe, Rahal with somebody else. Is that possible or true?
BOBBY RAHAL: No, that's not true. I've got enough on my hands. I've got enough on my hands right now. I mean, we looked at the possibility of a third car. But really, you know, this is a very tough, tough business. I don't want to do anything to mess with the formula that we have currently because it's proving to be successful. As I say, the last thing I want to do is alter that in any way.
Is the contract with Max renewed already?
BOBBY RAHAL: We don't have a contract with anybody on the Miller card at that stage. This year was the last year of the original contract with Max. Now, certainly Max has done a great job. I thought his race at Portland was a phenomenal race in very, very difficult conditions.
But he and I haven't even really spoken about it. As I say, I think in the next 30 to 45 days, you'll see a lot of the movement happen in terms of drivers and teams and what have you. We'll know more later.
There's still a lot of the series to go. Max can still have quite a good year, if we can just get him some good luck. The guy is showing he can run very quickly. He's showing he can win. We've got to just help him try to do that.
Got to make a subscription with Lady Luck?
BOBBY RAHAL: That's right.
Bobby, when you were in Vancouver for the race last year, you seemed to be against having more than two races in Canada. I wonder what your thoughts are being three next year?
BOBBY RAHAL: I wasn't against it. That's just what the contract was. Obviously, there were sensitivities at the time, particularly when have you two years left to run in Vancouver, about the last thing you want to do is, you know, talk about that. You want to talk about the upcoming race.
As I think I just mentioned, I've always considered Vancouver and Toronto in particular two of the most successful events ever in the CART series - maybe in open-wheel racing as a whole. I think it's going to be tremendous that you have Vancouver, Toronto, and I'm particularly excited about Montreal because I think Montreal is a circuit -- as a circuit, is a phenomenal place, for the team as great racetrack. You'll have the three biggest cities in Canada hosting three major events. I think that's nothing but a huge positive for us.
Molstar, who as you know is the promoter, if they're not the best, certainly one of the best promoters CART has, one of the best that exists in motor sport. The more you can do with them, as far as I'm concerned, the better.
Kenny, I just wondered how nervous you were before Letterman and while you were taping it?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I don't know nervous. I was anxious probably. You know, that was a whole lot of fun. It was obviously a great honor to be able to sit in for a show like I did with Paul and the rest of the musicians. They've been a tremendous supporter of racing, obviously a great owner for this team. He's done a lot for the CART series by showing clips here and there, supporting it all through the season.
It was just a great thing to be able to do that. I was very, very honored to be able to do it.
Sounded good, looked great.
KENNY BRACK: You only play with professional musicians like Paul and these professional musicians. It's a lot easier than playing otherwise because they make it easy for you. That's probably part of the reason that it sounded good.
Are you saying it's harder to play with Carpentier?
KENNY BRACK: It's harder to play with your own group. You practice together and do gigs. But these guys there at the show, they play together every day. They know each other so well. They can carry someone that don't know them that well. If you have your own group, then you have to work hard in getting to know each other and getting to notice the small nuances here and there to sort of make it sound good. But they're great musicians in my group, too. But you don't get that sort of same feeling as when you play together every day. That's different.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund. I wonder how big they are back home? They're four Swedes that play for the Vancouver Canucks.
KENNY BRACK: I heard of most of them. Hockey, especially NHL hockey in Sweden, is pretty big. You have obviously some really big stars over here, Swedish. I'm thinking of Boris Berg, Sundin, these guys. These other guys are in the press regularly in Sweden, too. There's quite a few of them that plays in the NHL.
How is it that a country of eight million people, not just hockey, but golf, tennis, motor sport, what is it about Sweden that produces so many elite athletes?
KENNY BRACK: I don't know. I mean, I really don't know. But hockey is a big, nearly national sport in Sweden. Hockey and soccer are the two sports that every kid. Even I had a hockey club.