CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Track Talk - Houston

PAPIS LOOKING TO CONTINUE SUCCESS AT HOUSTON HILLIARD, OH . . . The mention of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston brings a smile to Max Papis face. It should come as no surprise to anyone since Papis has posted a pair of top-five results in his...

PAPIS LOOKING TO CONTINUE SUCCESS AT HOUSTON

HILLIARD, OH . . . The mention of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston brings a smile to Max Papis face. It should come as no surprise to anyone since Papis has posted a pair of top-five results in his two previous trips to Houston. He comes to Texas this week looking to continue a streak of five consecutive running finishes, his longest such streak of the season.

"Houston is a street course that is very particular, it is very important to work on the rear end of the car to make sure it is balanced. We have had a history of being very competitive here but this year the game is changing on the street courses with a different tire compound and different downforce levels in the car. I am really looking forward to seeing how our setup from last year holds up for this year."

"There is nothing in particular special about this street course, I have just enjoyed some success here. It is simply a street course, and that means qualifying is important, maybe as important here as anywhere else. My crew and I have been working really well together here in the past finding the right setting with the car so that not only can we qualify well but we can be competitive on race day."

Papis has shown resilience and turned his 2000 season around to the point where he finds himself in a position to make a run at a top-five finish in the season point standings. This turnaround has come after Papis was plagued with seven DNF's in the first 12 races. For Papis the 1999 series leader in running finishes (18), laps and miles completed and the runner-up in laps led, the earlier problems of the 2000 season made for some frustrating moments.

"What is happening now in the third part of the season is exactly what I had hoped would happen at the beginning of the year. We are finishing races and running consistently in the top-ten or higher. We have been showing a lot of potential in our performance and if we can continue to build on the momentum we have established we can make a run at the top-five which is where we finished last year."

BRACK POISED TO CLINCH CART ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

The only thing that will keep Kenny Brack from clinching the CART Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award this weekend is a DNF and if either Oriol Servia or Alex Tagliani wins the Grand Prix of Houston. Brack holds a commanding lead of 62 points (118-56) over the second place Servia and he only needs to depart Houston with a 45-point lead.

"Winning the CART Rookie of the Year will be a wonderful honor but to be honest I am more focused on the CART championship and trying to win a race or two this season. I certainly am not a traditional rookie, however there are races this year where I have felt like a first year driver."

Among the Champ Car legends who have won the CART Rookie of the Year honors are Team Rahal owner and three-time CART Champion Bobby Rahal (1986), 1993 CART Champion Nigel Mansell (1993), Gil de Ferran (1995), two-time CART Champion Alex Zanardi (1996) and 1999 CART Champion Juan Montoya (1999).

Brack has a chance to be just the third driver to win the CART title and the Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. The CART Championship/Rookie of the Year double was first turned in 1993 by Nigel Mansell and again last year by Juan Montoya. Brack is 19 points from the CART lead with three races remaining.

FINISHING ON THE PODIUM IS THE KEY TO CART TITLE

Shell driver Kenny Brack knows what it will take to win the 2000 CART Championship. "You pretty much have to finish on the podium every week to control your own destiny," said Brack, the 1998 Indy Racing League Champion. "This title fight is something else. None of the drivers have been able to build any momentum and that has allowed everyone of the drivers to endure a streak of bad luck and stay in the hunt. Two races ago Roberto Moreno was struggling riding a streak of poor luck but he finished on the podium at St. Louis and suddenly he is second place closing on the points leader Gil de Ferran."

Brack has amassed eight top-five results in the first 17 races and has posted points in all but four events. If he would collect a top-five in each of the final three races he would tie the Team Rahal record for top-five results in a season set by Max Papis in 1999.

"All we can do is take each race individually and focus on doing the best we can. If you say we have to finish on the podium each week to win the title you have a daunting task ahead. If I can get a podium here this weekend then we will just look to build on that success in Australia."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Nigel Mansell