CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Track Talk, Gold Coast

Brack And Team Rahal'S Title Hopes Depend On Success Down Under HILLIARD, OHIO . . .With two races left in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series the battle for the Vanderbilt Cup is down to three drivers. Team Rahal's Kenny Brack heads to ...

Brack And Team Rahal'S Title Hopes Depend On Success Down Under

HILLIARD, OHIO . . .With two races left in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series the battle for the Vanderbilt Cup is down to three drivers. Team Rahal's Kenny Brack heads to Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia for this week's Gold Coast 300 second in the points battle 26 points behind Team Penske's Gil de Ferran and 12 points ahead of third place Helio Castroneves.

Brack held the top-spot in the points for 11 of the 18 previous rounds but de Ferran has wrestled the points lead away from Brack with three straight podium finishes including back-to-back wins at Rockingham (9/22) and Houston (10/7). Therefore Brack who leads the series in wins (4), poles (6) and laps led (621) finds himself needing a strong outing at Australia and in the season finale at Fontana to win the championship. Furthermore Brack can ill afford de Ferran to score significant points at Australia. If de Ferran leaves Surfers Paradise with a 23 point lead he will have clinched the championship.

The last two years driver's have gone to Australia with a chance to clinch the championship only to have to be forced to wait until the final laps at Fontana to claim their prize. Could this year be the same?

Brack has raced on the streets of Surfers Paradise only once and that resulted in a second place finish in 2000. It was one of four podium results Brack bagged in 2000 three of which came on road or street courses.

The 2001 season has been a different story for Brack. The bulk of his points have come on the ovals as Brack has posted six podium results with all six coming on ovals. Brack's top-finish on a road course in 2001 has been a fifth place finish in the season opener at Monterey, Mexico.

The streets of Surfers Paradise have been a nightmare for de Ferran in the past. The Team Penske driver has collected just one top-five result in six races on the Gold Coast. Only twice has de Ferran scored points on race day in Surfers Paradise and in fact the last two seasons de Ferran had completed just one lap due to first lap incidents.

"We have to do well here (Australia) to keep the championship alive heading into the last race," said Brack. "If we can do that we will have a really good chance to clinch the title, but paramount is to come out of here with a shooting chance for the last race. Last year we had a second place result which was great and that gives us some confidence coming into the race weekend. I really like the carnival like atmosphere surrounding this event. The facilities are great and the fan support is unbelievable. There isn't another event on the CART schedule like the Gold Coast 300. It is without a doubt the highlight of the year for me personally."

The season finale at Fontana will be on a super speedway and Brack has dominated the ovals this season finishing on the podium in all but one oval event, the Michigan 500 in which he and teammate Max Papis dominated. "We will worry about Fontana when we get there," said Brack. "Right now we are approaching this race the same way we have approached the previous 18 events, we are going to Australia to win."

PAPIS LOOKS TO BUILD ON LAGUNA SUCCESS

Miller Lite driver Max Papis comes to Surfers Paradise carrying the momentum of his victory two weeks ago in The Shell 300 in the Grand Prix of Monterey. The triumph was the second win of the 2001 season for Papis and the third of his Champ Car career.

"As we proved at Laguna Seca, I start every race with a will to succeed, and I always believed we can pull out a great success no matter where we start or what the circumstances are," said Papis. "There are two races to go and I am going to approach them with the same mentality and see what happens. I have a great confidence."

The win at Laguna Seca bumped Papis to eighth in the season points, just 21 behind fifth place. Papis has been quite vocal about his desire to finish the season in the top-five in points, which would match his career high from his all-star season of 1999 season.

Papis has matched his career high in podium appearances (3) and pole positions won (1) this season and has established a career best with a pair of wins. Papis though is eyeing more.

"The top-five is still my goal for this season," said Papis. "It would be a great position for us to attain in the championship considering all the things that have happened this season. I am really looking forward to the last two races. The important thing is scoring and scoring strong. I have a lot of faith in the Miller team in our ability to do that. We have been improving and all the mechanics are pumped up. Right now there is a calm, methodical and opportunistic atmosphere around our team."

TEAM RAHAL RECORD KEEP FALLING

The 2001 season has been a season when Team Rahal drivers Kenny Brack and Max Papis have re-written the team's record book. The two drivers have combined to capture six races wins in the first 18 events, nearly matching the team's previous win total of seven in the prior nine seasons. Included in that win total was the first ever one-two finish for Team Rahal which came at the EuroSpeedway in The American Memorial.

Brack has single handedly smashed the team marks for poles with six and laps led with 621 but when combined with Papis pole at Portland and the laps led by Papis those numbers grow to seven poles and 789 laps led.

Next up is the team mark for podiums results in a season. The team record of ten was set by Bobby Rahal during his championship season of 1992. Brack and Papis have combined to capture nine podium results this season.

-TR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack
Teams Team Penske