CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Houston preview

Kenny Brack Shell Champ Car driver Kenny Brack heads to Texas this week for the Texaco-Havoline Grand Prix of Houston with a six point lead in the CART championship. Only four races remain in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series and the lead...

Kenny Brack
Shell Champ Car driver Kenny Brack heads to Texas this week for the Texaco-Havoline Grand Prix of Houston with a six point lead in the CART championship. Only four races remain in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series and the lead four drivers in the title fight are separated by a mere 24 points.

Brack reclaimed the CART points lead with a brilliant European swing where he won the inaugural race at EuroSpeedway and finished second in the Champ Car debut at Rockingham. Brack led 138 laps in Europe and claimed 37 out of a possible 42 points on the two oval tracks and lead Team Rahal to the team's first ever one-two finish which came at Germany.

Brack continued his season long dominance of the CART oval tracks. In seven oval races this season Brack has posted four wins, two second place results and a single DNF which came at Michigan.

In his first season in Champ Car Brack actually posted more points on the road and street courses than on the ovals. Three of Brack's four podiums in 2000 came on road or street courses including a pair of runner-up efforts at Cleveland and Australia. This season he has four top-ten results including a season best road finish of fifth at Mexico.

"With the exception on one or two races we have been fast on the road and street courses this year," said Brack. "The biggest problem for us has been our inability to finish what we have started on the road courses. If we can get a bit of luck on the road courses we will be successful."

Brack's early career was spent on the road courses of Europe in Formula Ford and Formula 3000. He raced his first ovals in 1993 in Barber-Saab and then raced all ovals in 1997 when he joined the Indy Racing League. Having run nothing but ovals for three IRL seasons, Brack has gained the reputation as an oval specialist. "It is amusing to me that I have that label because when I first came to the United States I was labeled a road racer who couldn't run ovals. I really don't care what kind of track we race on I just love the competition and will prepare myself for what ever kind of race is on the schedule."

Max Papis
Miller Lite Champ Car driver Max Papis returns to Houston this week carrying a two-race point streak which has moved him to 12th in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series standings. Papis posted his second podium result of the 2001 season when he finished second in The American Memorial at the EuroSpeedway and he followed that with an 11th place result at Rockingham.

Papis has enjoyed a pair of top-five results at Houston in three previous outings. In 1998, driving with PPI Motorsports, Papis finished fifth, posting his first CART top-five finish in the rain soaked Grand Prix of Houston. The following year in his first season with Team Rahal, Papis finished fourth despite a controversial penalty for a pit speed violation. Papis bid in 2000 to make it three straight top-five results at Houston was derailed by contact which caused a DNF.

"Houston is like a home race for us because of the fact that Shell is based there" said Papis. "The week will be busy with a number of sponsor events and we will see a lot of people from Shell who won't make it to other events. Houston is a fun little street track with 90-degree corners and not very high speeds down the straights. It is a track that features a lot of heavy braking and is also know for it's attrition, so if you stay out of trouble you have a good chance at a points paying finish. This is a great event for downtown Houston. A lot of people will come to the track over the course of the three day race weekend."

"I think we can still finish in the top-five in the championship," said Papis. "We have been successful at each of the tracks remaining and we know what we have to do to be competitive. The Miller team has endured a lot of adversity this season but we are as focused now as we were heading into the first race of the year. With a little luck we can really finish this year in style."

Team Rahal milestones
2001 is shaping up as a record year for Team Rahal. Several team records have fallen and the team continues to pass milestones in it's tenth season in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

Shell driver Kenny Brack has tied owner Bobby Rahal's mark of four wins in a season set in 1992. The team has set a wins record with five surpassing the mark of four from the inaugural campaign.

Brack has shattered the team mark for laps led with 621 and there is still four races remaining. Rahal had set the laps led mark of 421 during his championship year of 1992.

Brack has claimed the season mark for pole positions by claiming six in 2001. Brack is now tied with Bryan Herta for tops on the Team Rahal career list.

The team is poised this week at Houston to surpass the 4,000 laps completed mark for the fourth straight season. The team should also top 35,000 laps completed in team history this week during the Grand Prix of Houston.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack