INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 24, 2000 -- Kenny Brack, winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, slipped into the garage area Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon to catch up with friends and the track where he earned...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 24, 2000 -- Kenny Brack, winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, slipped into the garage area Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon to catch up with friends and the track where he earned his most glorious triumph.
Brack is driving the Shell Ford Cosworth Reynard for 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal in CART this season. He started second and finished fifth in the most recent race at Motegi, Japan.
He then flew home to Sweden for a few days rest, hopped on a plane last weekend to fly back to the United States and tested Sunday and Monday at Milwaukee. That put him in position to stop by the Speedway to visit with A.J. Foyt -- for whom he won the 1998 Indy Racing championship and last year 's Indianapolis 500 -- and the crew before returning to his current home base of Columbus, Ohio.
Accompanied by his fiancee, Anita Gabrielsson, he was in a relaxed, happy mood as he talked with old friends.
"Of course, any driver would like to drive the Indianapolis 500," he said. "But the way I look at it, I was fortunate enough to go here with the king of this place (Foyt) and to win it with him.
"No matter how long you race, that's something very few drivers can experience. In fact, I think I'm the only one right now. I'm very grateful for that."
But Brack, 34, set a new goal for this year and is 100 percent devoted to making that a success. He said that he would like to be at Indy to defend his title, but it is difficult to do both at the same time.
"I have a difficult task as it is right now to try to make it a success," he said. "And the Indy 500, you ask any driver, it is a very difficult task. It's not a normal race. It's something much more intense. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus, and I just feel I couldn't do both properly.
"I made the decision to do CART, and that's where my focus is. That's not to say I don't miss this place. I do miss it.
"And I will be back here. But when I get back here I'm going to be back with a chance to win. That means I will be back here with my focus on this race."
Brack was in awe of the construction changes at the Speedway since he took the checkered flag a year ago. He called the upgrading in preparation for the first Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24 unbelievably modern and first class.
"They've done a fantastic job here, really," he said.
"It's still got its feeling and its soul, but the history of the place is still intact. Normally, when you build new stuff it's easy to lose some of that. For me it feels - and I've not been here for 50 years like some - like when I've been here."
Brack's feeling for his victory still is lodged deep in his soul and will be with him wherever he goes. It's incredible, he said, that he was able to win the race and do it with Foyt, who remains his good friend.
Foyt taught Brack much about racing and helped him become a world-famous race driver, Brack said.
"He became more like a mentor than a team owner to me," Brack said. "We remain friends. His whole team, I feel welcome there. I feel right at home. It was good to see they were doing such good work."
Brack questions whether he would have become an Indianapolis 500 champion if he had not signed with Foyt. He said that was like hitting the jackpot, which he did since the deal was sealed at a late 1997 meeting in Las Vegas.
Brack phoned the Foyt garage from Sweden during last week's practice to see how A.J.'s current drivers, Jeff Ward and Eliseo Salazar, were doing. Last Saturday, Foyt called qualifying reports to Brack in the air as Brack flew into Chicago. Last Sunday, Brack completed his day's testing at Milwaukee, drove to the airport and got to see Billy Boat, his teammate last year with Foyt, make the field in a Foyt car as the final qualifier.
"Very, very dramatic," he said. "It's as usual, he never gives up. The fighting spirit was there, and Billy did a tremendous job with the car. It hadn't turned a wheel until they rolled it out to qualify, which is remarkable."
Actually, Brack is listed as co-owner with Foyt of the car Boat will drive in the race this Sunday. Brack said his ownership status came through the courtesy presented by Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion as a driver. Foyt offered him the opportunity to be a partner and Brack calls it symbolic.
"That shows A.J.," Brack said. "He's got a big heart. It's a very nice thing for me, because it means my name is here. I'm here in spirit. "I'm very, very grateful that he did that. It was a very nice gesture by him. He certainly had no obligation to do that. He did that anyway out of friendship."
Brack hopes to work out an arrangement to return to Indy to watch the race Sunday, a day after the CART race in Nazareth, Pa., but has a commitment on Monday than may preclude doing that.
"If I'm not, then I'll be here in spirit," he said.
But his countenance will be here and in the pits on Race Day as the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.