IRL: Barnhart, Hornish Jr, Brack press conference, Part II

Indy Racing League Feb. 25, 2003 Brian Barnhart, Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack Part 2 of 3 Johnson: Thank you, Sam. We have also been joined by Kenny Brack. Good morning, Kenny. Brack: Good morning. How are you doing? Johnson: Doing...

Indy Racing League Feb. 25, 2003

Brian Barnhart, Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack

Part 2 of 3

Johnson: Thank you, Sam. We have also been joined by Kenny Brack. Good morning, Kenny.

Brack: Good morning. How are you doing?

Johnson: Doing very good. Kenny was the 1998 IndyCar Series champion, and he won the Indianapolis 500 in 1999 before spending the past three seasons driving in the CART series. Kenny, if you would, tell us about your preparations which you and Team Rahal have been making for the upcoming IndyCar Series season?

Brack: First of all, it is nice to be back racing in IndyCar Series. I always enjoyed it, and I am sure I will enjoy it again. We have a new operation for this deal, obviously, so we are trying to learn as much as possible. We have been to a couple of private tests and all the Open Tests so far and basically trying to learn what this car needs to go fast and all that stuff. But it has gone pretty good so far. We will see how we stack up when we get down to Homestead.

Johnson: Now at this time, I would like to open the forum for questions for either Sam Hornish Jr. or Kenny Brack. We ask that you post your first question and then please allow someone else to ask a question before you come back with your follow-up.

Q: Quick question for Kenny. This is sort of a little bit naive on my part, I am not sure. Can you give me the background of your move from CART back to the IRL? And did you miss IRL in any way?

Brack: Can I give my background? Well I moved from Target Chip Ganassi last year in CART to Team Rahal for the IRL challenge this year. That is the background.

Q: Was there a specific reason that the move was made or is it simply made because one team wanted you and one team did not?

Brack: No. I think it was more like I had a good offer from Team Rahal to join their operation for 2003. I looked at all the offers that I had, and I decided that I was going to need the best place for me for the future, and that is basically that. I had a very good relationship with the Target Team and Ganassi. I sided with Team Rahal the first time. I drove for them in 2000 and 2001. There has been no controversy involved if that is what you are getting at.

Q: No, no. I was just wondering. Thanks.

Q: Sam, you talk a lot about being in a one-car team situation and that you cannot share information with a teammate because you do not have one. Another thing is that the some of the drivers, like the Brazilian drivers, Castroneves, Giaffone and Kanaan, they came up as teams in lower-level racing and are very familiar with each other. Do you have anybody that you can just talk to on the track like they do?

Hornish Jr.: There is no doubt about that those guys have raced together for a long amount of time and that they are very good friends. But I guess to kind of answer your question, I am a little bit of a loner as far as that goes. There are not too many drivers that I talk to quite a bit before races or anything like that basically because I know that they are not going to tell me what they are going to do, just the same as I am not going to tell them what I am going to do. It is just kind of a tough little thing to go about because you do not want to let any of your secrets out. Basically, I just like to be by myself before the races so I can get my plan of action in my head and get everything situated for when the race starts.

Q: Sam, competition was really, really close last year, and apparently it is going to be even closer this year. Do you think there is a chance for one person to repeat as a winner or a win race several times or do you think it is going to be hard for a person just to win one race?

Hornish Jr.: That is hard to say because the 2001 season, I think we had an average finish of just over three for third place for the whole series, and we won three races that year, and last year we had an average finish of sixth, and we won five races. So all in all, it is really hard to tell. You never do know. There are so many different variables that can come down, especially when you have those last lap finishes where you are just be able to position yourself. I do not know. I think that there is a possibility of somebody becoming a multiple winner, maybe four races, but I do not see it going much over that. But, I have been wrong before.

Q: Sam, how are you doing? You know that you had these two incredible finishes last year at the end of the season. Can you win a race any closer than those two?

Hornish Jr.: I am sure it can be done, but I do not know if I will win it. I know that it can be done closer. It would be about three and one-half inches instead of seven. There are exciting for the fans and it is good for the sport, but I would like to win by a little bit more making it a little bit more convincing. But then again, you take what you can get, too.

Q: Kenny, what has it been like, going to be like? You worked for A.J. Foyt for several, a couple of three seasons and now you work with Bobby Rahal.

Brack: They are kind of completely different individuals. But I guess if you look at their track record, they both know how to get the job done. So for me it is a matter of blending into the organization and then doing my job as good as I can do my part, and that is it. I am very good friends with A.J. still, and it is going to be fun to be racing with him and with his grandson this year. It is going to be good for me to be back with Bobby Rahal I think, too. So it is going to be an exciting year, for sure.

Q: A couple of questions for Kenny. First, what is the major difference do you think having been the IRL champ in 1998 and now coming back four years later when the competition seems to be much higher? And also when you worked for A.J. Foyt; do you have any recollections of hanging Anthony at all, and are you surprised to see him at this level so young?

Brack: I think that when I used to race in the IRL in '98 and '99, and so forth, it has always been a good time. It had Tony Stewart in there, who won the NASCAR championship last year. So there has been no lack of talent in the racing league at any point, I do not think. I think that has continued all the way through. But I think also, especially this year, that the depth of the field is incredible. I think that if you had a bad day in '98 or '99 you might have been the seventh or eighth or something, maybe there were seven or eight cars which could on any given day win a race. But now if you have a bad day, I predict you will probably finish 18th or 20th. That is the difference. It is a lot deeper field, lots more cars that can win the race this year, at least that is how it looks on paper. If you look at all the established drivers from the IndyCar Series and from the drivers that come there from CART, if you look at the teams and the engine manufacturers, and they are all very well fine packages with big sponsors and stuff. It is going to be extremely tough. And you had a question, when I drove for A.J. back in '98 and '99, I lived in Houston, Texas. I went to see Anthony race on go-karts and stuff, and there has been no doubt in my mind that he is a talented driver. He used to win a lot, and he is a good guy, and for sure he is going to be exciting to race against him. It is a little strange to race against Foyt, I guess. But it is going to be exciting, and it is good. For I know I get very happy and Anthony, too, so it is a nice situation.

Q: This one is sort of for both. First Sam, I am not sure how much road racing you have done, but they mentioned early that the Indy-style cars now are sort of designed to at least accept road racing. Would you be interested in doing that? Is that something that you have looked forward to or to do both kinds of racing, ovals and roads?

Hornish Jr.: All the way up until the time that I came into the Indy Racing League, predominantly everything I did was road-course racing. So I would be comfortable if Indy Racing League decided to move toward that because it is good for the fans, and it is good thing for the series. But I am all for it based on we go to a track where there is going to be a competitive racing, a place where the fans can see it and excited to come to our races.

Q: Did you miss it having not done it since before you came to IRL?

Hornish Jr.: Yes, you miss certain things, but this is my job and driving ovals is what the IRL is all about. So I do not miss it because my livelihood is driving the ovals, so whenever it gets switched to where you can do both, that is fine with me. But I really do not prefer one over the other.

Q: Kenny, actually that point is what I would like to ask you. Do you like one over the other? Do you like street and roads or do you like strictly ovals now?

Brack: I think that I grew up on the road courses, too, and I like road-course racing. Let's say if you go off on ovals there is nothing to say that you cannot like road racing and quite the opposite, too. I like both types of tracks, and I have been road racing on both ovals and road courses over the last two or three years, and that is a great mixture. But in the end of the day if you are a race car driver and a competitive race car driver, you want to race where the competition is the greatest and try to win that environment. And that is going on a speed course, if it is on a road course or an oval really does not matter from that standpoint. That is the first and foremost. But if it is a mixed schedule, I would be all for that.

Q: If you are going to be strictly ovals from now on do you think you are going to miss the roads and the streets?

Brack: I think I will have enough to think about how to try to win one of these races. But I have enjoyed racing on the road courses.

Q: Hi, this is for Kenny. I was just wondering, Kenny, you have raced with Team Rahal before. Is there a level of comfort that you immediately felt when you decided that you wanted to go back to race with the Team Rahal?

Brack: Well, I mean, we raced together in 2000 and 2001 and we had a lot of success together. We won more race than anyone that year in 2001, and we scored more poles, and we led more laps and did all those things and finished second in the championship. So basically I had the opportunity to come back into a situation where the key players were basically the same as from that time. Of course, there are some new guys on the team. But it was a very good situation that was offered to me and with Honda coming in new to the IRL for this year, I think when I looked at all the options that I had, there was no doubt in my mind that this situation will be the best for me for the future. It feels a little bit like coming back to an old family and stuff like that. But also we have, like I said, we are going to be running with the Honda engine, and it is going to be extremely competitive. And we are going to be running with the Dallara chassis and all that. So all the components basically are here to do the job.

Q: This is for both Sam and Kenny. I am wondering if you are expecting to have a teammate for the Indianapolis 500 and do you prefer that you do have a teammate?

Brack: Maybe we should put our efforts together, huh? We would be a good team. I do not know, I think that for my sake, for Team Rahal's position, I think it is possible that there will be a teammate for the '500.' Certainly for me, I would not mind that. We will see what happens. I mean, it is up to the team basically to decide if that is going to happen. From the drivers' side, I do not think that it would be something that I would not like. I would very much welcome to have a teammate. It is good to have a teammate in some instances because you can see where you are at all the time. You go to a track and test, and you know from the pace or whatever, you start questioning do we have a good car, is the track changing or whatever. If you have a teammate, you sort of have a baseline to base yourself against and so you immediately short pack a little bit of the thought process that goes into it.

Hornish Jr.: I basically agree. To be able to go to the Indianapolis 500 and to have a teammate and to get twice as much information would be a definite benefit, too, to what we can expect to do at the Indianapolis 500 this year. But last year we did not have a teammate, and if I had been a little bit more patient during the race, things would have turned out a lot differently. But the thing is that we can go there, we can get the information, we can do everything we can do, and if I do not do what I supposed to do on race day, and things do not work out, it does not matter how many cars you have running. You are not going to have that opportunity to win the race. We will play the cards that are dealt to us, and if the sponsorship comes around, and we do have a teammate that is great, but if not, we are going to work our butts off and try to be able to go out there and qualify good and start up toward the front and see what we can do in the race.

Q: Sam, at this point are you expecting to have a teammate?

Hornish Jr.: I expect to have one if somebody comes forward that has the money to do it. But I do not know of anybody that is on the line right now. That would be a better question for (co-owner) John Barnes.

Q: Actually, it is for both of you. I have talked to a couple of drivers that say that Homestead is a pretty technical track without the bank, and I was wondering if you guys, obviously Sam has conquered it a couple of times, if you could tell me how difficult a track it is to run and what makes it that way?

Hornish Jr.: Part of what makes it that way is it has long straightaways, fairly tight corners, but they are sweeping and they are flat. You just have to have your car working really well because if you do not have a good car you are not going to be able to pass. Homestead usually ends up being maybe a one-, maybe a two-line race track depending on how good your car is. It is easy to get hung up behind another car and to get into what they're doing as far as follow their car and to lose your pace. So, it is really one of the tracks where you have to maintain your own pace. If somebody is going a little bit faster than you and your car is not capable of it, you have to accept that, and if people are going forward you have to really time your passes and be able to not lose your momentum in going through traffic.

Brack: I mean, I guess Sam summed it up pretty good. I mean it is one of the toughest tracks to set the car up for everything. It is going to be interesting to see who is being the best driver this upcoming weekend.

Part III

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , John Barnes , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr.