BRACK'S TEXAS EXPERIENCE COULD BE THE KEY TO VICTORY HILLIARD, OH . . . As the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas this weekend for the inaugural Firestone Firehawk Texas 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway, Team Rahal Shell driver Kenny...
BRACK'S TEXAS EXPERIENCE COULD BE THE KEY TO VICTORY
HILLIARD, OH . . . As the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas this weekend for the inaugural Firestone Firehawk Texas 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway, Team Rahal Shell driver Kenny Brack finds himself in the unique position of being the only driver in CART who has previously raced on the high banked 1.5 mile tri-oval. While many feel his five previous races at Texas could be the key that provides Brack his first Champ Car victory, Brack downplays the experience factor.
"All last season I was in a position where I had to spend the better party of Friday learning the track and how the car would respond in certain situations," said Brack. "With the level of skill that there is in this series any advantage I have will be negated after a couple of practice sessions. Don't get me wrong I am happy to have that little bit of a head start and hopefully that will pay off for us over the course of the weekend."
Brack raced at TMS five times during his three year stint in the Indy Racing League. He posted a pair of top-five results (third & fifth) in 1998 en route to the IRL Championship. In 1999 he was leading the IRL season finale and heading for a second consecutive IRL title when a broken wheel bearing dropped him from the race. As a result he finished the season second in championship points.
Brack is looking for his third consecutive front row start which would tie a Team Rahal mark set by Bryan Herta in the latter stages of the 1999 season. Brack captured the pole at Mexico in the season opener and settled for a front row start after an on track duel with Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves in the waning moments of Long Beach qualifying.
"Front row starts are nice but to be honest it is not critical for success on an oval," said Brack. "I feel really good about our chances going into the weekend and if we can avoid the little problems that have plagued us we have a great chance to be successful at Texas."
PAPIS FEELS FORD AND LOLA IS THE RIGHT COMBO
Much was written before the start of the CART season about Team Rahal's switch to the Lola chassis after having run Reynard's since 1996. One of the reasons the team switched was the performance of the Lola on the ovals. Lola won seven races in 2000 including five of the last seven races run on ovals and that prompted Bobby Rahal to consider the Lola chassis for his team.
Miller Lite driver Max Papis feels the combination of Ford and Lola will be formidable on the ovals. "It has taken us some time to get used to the Lola on the road courses but when we tested the Lola this winter on the ovals it was very quick. The combo of the Lola and the Ford Cosworth XF engine gives us a very effective package for the ovals. We have shown we are a very good oval team over the last couple of seasons and this package should allow us to take our performance to the next level."
The high speed ovals have showcased some of Papis' finest racing moments since he joined Team Rahal in 1999. He posted his first win at Homestead in 2000 but his most impressive performances may have been his dominating drives on the super speedways (Fontana & Michigan) over the last two years when in which he has led 290 laps.
"I like the excitement of oval racing and the challenges of the high speeds." said Papis. "From what I know about Texas Motor Speedway, the race should be similar to the events we run at Fontana and Michigan. With this being a longer race (600 kilometers) than our normal short oval the key will taking care of the equipment and getting to the later stages of the race. Qualifying is important but not as critical on a track like this. There will be plenty of passing opportunities and it should be a pretty good show for the fans."
UNABLE TO ATTEND RAHAL WILL BE WATCHING
For the first time since he began driving Champ Cars for Jim Trueman in 1982 Bobby Rahal will not be at the track on a CART race weekend. A streak of 307 races will end this weekend as Rahal is Barcelona, Spain in his role as CEO of Jaguar Racing.
"This is a tough moment for me personally," said Rahal. "I've known for sometime that I would be missing some events but it will still be an emotional moment for me on Sunday when I see the green flag fall on TV. I am there in spirit with the guys this weekend and though my role with the team has changed thanks to cell phones, e mail and fax machines I am still well aware of what is going on the team on a daily basis."