Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League, Team Rahal
TOM SAVAGE: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome three members of Team Rahal to todays Indy Racing League. Last week Team Rahal announced an expanded partnership with Argent Mortgage out of Irvine, California. Argent Mortgage was involved with the team last year, but has now expanded their partnership as a co-primary sponsor with Pioneer Electronics. Team Rahal will be running a Honda/G Force/Firestone package in 2004. Joining us in the first half of today's call is Team Rahal general manager, Scott Roembke, along with newly named 2004 driver Buddy Rice. Team owner Bobby Rahal is out of the country right now and we are having trouble getting him into the call. When we do, we'll get him on line. Scott, let's start with you. With Kenny Brack's situation, you knew heading into this season you would need a new replacement driver to at least start the season. Was Buddy on a short list of drivers for you guys?
SCOTT ROEMBKE: Well, thank you for having us on the call, first off. Secondly, I think, yeah, you know, we had a list of three our four guys who luckily were available. Buddy was, you know, always amongst the top guys we wanted. In the end, he's the guy that Bobby identified to take over the seat.
TOM SAVAGE: It's my understanding that Mr. Rahal has joined us, so the second question, Bobby. We certainly don't know the return status of Kenny Brack at this time. But if he does return in 2004, are there plans potentially for a two-car team or maybe even Indianapolis, a two-car team?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think both Scott and I, first off, we're hopeful that Kenny recovers quickly. You know, he had a difficult time there in the beginning, but he seems to be back on track. You know, I know his spirits are good. Of course, having a new baby daughter does wonders. But, yeah, we're hopeful that he'll get back ASAP. And if he should, say in time for Indy, we don't know that, but if he should, we would do everything we could to make sure Buddy was up, particularly if we were figuring in the championship. You know, depending on how the first couple races go, if we're in the Top 3, I think it would be foolish for us not to try to figure out how to put something together to keep Buddy doing the obviously good job he's been doing up to that point.
TOM SAVAGE: I'm curious about Miami and Phoenix and even Twin Ring Motegi, if Kenny will take on a consultant role, if you will. Will he be at the racetrack those first few races?
BOBBY RAHAL: I don't know. Scott may know more specifically. Certainly we've always said that irrespective of whether Kenny is in the car or not for those first few races, that I would hope he would remain a member of the team, come to the shop. I haven't heard anything to the contrary. I think Kenny will be very involved because, obviously, if he does come back, he wants to have his finger on the pulse of what's been happening up to that point. So I would expect him to be at some of those. Now, you know, again, a lot of it depends on the speed of his recovery and the rehabilitation and everything else. But, you know, as I said many times, Kenny is the kind of guy that if a doctor tells him it's four months to heal, he'll try to do it in three or better. So, you know, I can't tell you for sure, but I'm sure that he'll have some role throughout the first part of the year.
TOM SAVAGE: Very good. Before we open it up for questions for Bobby or Scott, Buddy, driving for Team Rahal seems to have been in the works a few years now. You signed with the team in 2001 as a backup driver. Give us your thoughts of finally getting the chance to race with this team.
BUDDY RICE: For everything that Team Rahal has done to try to help me even in the past, and like you said, with signing me to do -- to try to help out the team with some of the testing, do a backup role there, you know, this is an excellent opportunity for myself. Obviously not exactly the way you want to come in, but as we've been saying, the seat is going to be kept ready and up to speed for Kenny's return, whenever that might be. My main objective right now with everything that Team Rahal has done for me in the past right now is to make sure that the No. 15 Pioneer Argent car is up front all the time. With the excellent Honda power we have and the new G Force chassis, I think we'll have a chance of running up front consistently.
TOM SAVAGE: You raced a Craftsman Truck series race at the end of 2003. You and I talked about how much you wanted to stay IndyCar Series racing. Is this your preferred form of motorsports?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah. This is where I want to be at. I grew up racing open-wheel cars. Everything I have been doing is to take care and make sure I want to stay here in the open-wheel rinks. Obviously sometimes, not always, does the situation presents itself to where you can. With this excellent opportunity, it's allowed me to stay in the IRL and do what I want to do.
TOM SAVAGE: Buddy, over the last several weeks, we've seen four driver announcements for the 2004 season. Three of the four were American born, including yourself, Ed Carpenter and Bryan Herta. Do you see a trend at all in the hiring of those American drivers?
BUDDY RICE: Well, I think you've seen, you know, obviously Bryan came in as a fill-in role such as I did. He's done an excellent job. It helped him to get a full-time spot back this year. It's an excellent thing and he's been working really hard at it. With Ed Carpenter, obviously he came up through the Indy Racing League's Infiniti Pro Series, which I think is an excellent thing to do, try to graduate drivers from our smaller series up into the top ranks. I think, you know, it's something that we need to do. It's something that didn't happen on the other side with other series and stuff. We need to make sure that happens. It's good that they're all Americans right now. It gives the kids that are coming up that are pushing hard trying to make it in America, that there are spots and opportunities for them.
TOM SAVAGE: Before Kenny Brack joins us, we will open up questions now for Bobby Rahal, Scott Roembke and Buddy Rice.
Q. Bob, you've got to be pretty proud of the fact that over the years, you really have taken advantage of some excellent talent that's graduated from the Toyota Atlantic series, and Buddy of course has come up through those ranks, as well. You have to be proud of that fact because, as Buddy alluded to, you have to get drivers from those development series, otherwise those series die, right?
BOBBY RAHAL: Absolutely. I think the whole progression of a young driver from, say, karting on up, you know, there's been efforts, of course we've made our own efforts with Stars of Tomorrow to try to create more of a professional series in karting. I think it's working. There's a lot of great young talent at that level that will be graduating to cars over the next three, four, five years. We talk about young Americans being hired. They've got to cut their teeth in an extremely competitive series. The Atlantic Series has always been tough, it's always been a great training formula. Buddy is certainly one example of that. I mean, certainly that's why we have Danica, Patrick in the Atlantic Series, because we believe it's the best series to teach young drivers the tools that they need to be able to compete at higher levels. So, you know, as Buddy said, it's always been tough. I think more often than not, it's just a matter of opportunities available. But I think as more and more team owners see the quality of young drivers, young American drivers, say, improving in these junior categories, that they're far more confident when they hire these young people to come in and drive their IndyCar that they know they've got a guy or girl for that matter that can compete against anybody, no matter where they're from.
Q. Buddy, the last little while here there's been some concern about driver safety, simply may be inherent with the IRL's all-oval format, talk about reducing the horsepower in the car, take away some of the grip, make them less drivable. Scott Dixon has various ideas on what he thinks should be done with the cars. What about you, any concerns about all the-oval thing, safety thing, what they may want to do to make these cars safer, if they need to do that?
BUDDY RICE: I think so far with what the IRL has done, their formula, the way they have been working on things, I think they've done an excellent job. I think with that, I mean, really, I mean, there's probably a few little things you can do. I think maybe the safer wall barrier things are a big help. We're just going to have to wait and see, kind of leave that up to the IRL right now. Until we have some more data and some more things to work off of, then I think you can start making other, you know, suggestions and things. But I think it's just going to take a little bit of time to kind of iron out all the little things that happen. But I think for right now the cars are quite safe. There's obviously been a few big accidents. But to show how well the safety is, at least Kenny is one of the ones you can look at and say for how horrific the crash was, for him to still be here and being able to hopefully be able to come back is a huge testament to how they structured the rules and the safety gear and everything that we use.
Q. Bobby, question in regards to driver choice. Why do we see drivers from USAC and the Silver Crown Division leaving for NASCAR and got getting rides in the IRL?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I don't know how many there have been. Obviously, you got the stand-outs like (inaudible) and Tony Stewart and people like that. There's certainly a lot of money in NASCAR. That's got to be an enticement, to be sure. Sam Hornish stayed in the IRL. I think it depends really on what you want to do, you know, what kind of cars do you want to drive. You know, open-wheel cars, I don't think there's anything really more exciting than that, irrespective of where it might be, whether it's a sprint car or outlaws or an IndyCar for that matter. I think a lot of it depends on what that person wants. Without questions, there's a lot of opportunities in NASCAR. There's a lot of cars. Having said that, there's only a handful that are consistently competitive. But there are opportunities, and that's what I was saying earlier, you know, as we all make the Indy 500 and IndyCar racing more and more popular, it becomes more and more legitimate from an advertising standpoint, companies will invest more money in it, you know, those opportunities will arise. Then, of course, it's up to the young drivers out there to prove that they're ready to go toe-to-toe with the Brazilians and the whoevers because these Brazilian kids, they're tough, they're tough. They've grown up in the equivalent of a street fight in karting or what have you down in Brazil. You know, these guys address it in a very, very professional way. We've just got to try to ensure that our young North Americans, you know, approach it in the same fashion. There's no question that they can compete on an equal basis; it's just a matter of the opportunities, and then when you get that opportunity proving your worth.
Q. Bobby, I'm watching how I phrase this, but with the situation with CART and the open-wheel series, do you foresee the IRL going to road course events this year or next?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I mean, I only know what I read or hear like you do. You probably know a lot more than I do. You know, I certainly think that there are great road racing events that would be nothing but a credit to IndyCar racing. Long Beach, Toronto, Elkhart Lake, these are great, great circuits and have big crowds. That's just a plus. I think it's really up to Tony and, you know, Brian and all the people that founded the IRL. Certainly it was always based on the fact that it was going to be oval racing. But, as I say, it's pretty hard to ignore a Long Beach Grand Prix, it seems to me. And I think you hear all kinds of rumors about the potential of going road racing. You know, I think that would be of great value. I think that's what made open-wheel racing so successful in the '80s, for example, and early '90s, was, you know, when you had sort of a combination of both. You know, personally, yeah, I'm hopeful that road racing is a component of the IRL. But that's really not up to me.
Q. Bobby, the question kind of comes from where you just were. Open-wheel racing has gone through enormous changes, from being one of the premiere events in American sports to something less than that now. Is that a frustration for you to have come up through the ranks, from Toyota Atlantic to the highest levels of the sport to where now it's a struggle to see what direction it's going to go?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, certainly it hasn't been -- you know, the last 10 years in particular haven't been a lot of fun, to be honest with you for me personally. When you look at the struggle, you look at where open-wheel racing was, the Indy 500 and everything else, you know, over the last 10 years has been this upheaval. But having said that, I think it's got the opportunity to regain a lot of that, a lot of what it had. NASCAR is a lot bigger now than it was 10 years ago or 15 years ago when open-wheel racing was clearly -- if it wasn't No. 1, it was co-No. 1 status with NASCAR in the spectators' minds, what have you. But, you know, I think we've just got to get this focus, just got to get back to it and do the right things. You know, last year Indy, I certainly felt compared to the year before, I certainly felt there was a lot more buzz. I wouldn't say there was as much as there used to be. I think it's certainly increasing, and I think that's a good sign. I think there are some good people that have been added to the staff of Indy Racing League. You know, there's growing pains, there's always going to be growing pains. But, you know, having one clear leader in the sport certainly to me is of great value. If I look back on CART, clearly that's what it didn't have. That probably preempted or probably produced much of the unfortunate, you know, things we've seen over the last 10 years. We're all in this together. And I think if we want open-wheel racing to be what it once was or at least get on the path to what it once was, then we've got to all work together.
Q. Bobby Rahal and Team Rahal was put in sports car racing maybe investigating that as a potential growth for your business. Is that still on the table or are you putting more of your interest into this expansion of open-wheel?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think certainly the American LeMans series in particular is of great interest to me personal because that's really where I cut my teeth years and years ago. And, yes, Formula Atlantic was there obviously. But sports car racing was always a big interest of mine. I won Sebring, I won Daytona. It was a very big component during the early part of my racing career. I've seen a lot of exciting things happening there. Aston Martin announced they're going to have a factory team. Ferrari has factory cars now. I think particularly in the GTS category there's a lot of excitement. You know, we have a racing company, so if the opportunities avail themselves, we'd be foolish not to look at it closely. I can't tell you precisely when we're going to find out if that's a go or no go for 2005, but certainly we're looking at it.
Q. When you sit down and talk to sponsors, do they have any favorite, whether they'd like to be in sports cars or in open-wheel?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, of course, a lot of it's based on television, a lot of it's based on where it is. You know, without question, the Indy 500, irrespective of how little you might know about racing, that's known by everybody. And that's a powerful tool for us to use in selling our IndyCar program. Having said that, I think it's a very different audience. I think there are companies that are probably inclined more towards sports car racing because of the demographics than they might be towards open-wheel racing. It's just a matter of, really for us, determining whether there's interest in companies like that to go forward. But when you're associated with names like Ferrari or Aston Martin, even the new Corvette or what have you, those are pretty powerful symbols and icons. Some companies want to be associated with those kinds of icons.
Q. Bobby, you've had opinions about where open-wheel racing has been going the past few years. Did the things that happened with CART have to happen for the open-wheel business model, so to speak, for it to get back to where it was before when it was thriving, and the Indy 500 still had its luster?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I mean, I don't think anybody would have wished what's happened over the last several years. You know, certainly Honda and Toyota leaving CART and going to the Indy Racing League was a big blow to CART because that took a lot of teams and cars with it. You know, I don't think anybody would wish that on anybody. But, you know, what's happened. But I think clearly there was a large dissatisfaction with the way CART was governed for many years by key players. Penske, people like that. That probably, you know, as I said earlier in the teleconference, with Tony and Brian, you know where the buck stops. They're going to do what's right for their series as they see it. I think if there's a plan, then most of the entities out there, Honda, Toyota, anybody, Chevrolet for that matter, are comfortable with the changes as they come down. I don't think there's any doubt that the fractious nature of the governance of CART, not in the last year certainly, but the last 10 years, did much to undermine its future.
Q. Do you see any particular irony in how I guess CART, which evolved from the old USAC days and everything, how that evolved from that, then how IRL evolved from that because of dissatisfaction, now it seems to be coming back to where it was before?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think certainly, you know, there were a lot of people that felt wronged by CART, and perhaps saw an opportunity to create something new in the beginning with the Indy Racing League. But I certainly don't see much evidence of that anymore. I think certainly, you know, all credit to Tony, he's stood up under a lot of pressure, criticism. I went to a number of the races last year, you look they crowds. I don't care if it's part of a ticket buyer or not, people still have to come out and watch it. Pretty impressive crowds at a lot of these circuits. You can't deny the racing, how exciting it is. I have a hard time watching it, it's that exciting, I guess. But I do think that, you know, I really think all the USAC, CART, this, that, the sooner that's all put away the better for everybody, and the better for open-wheel racing.
Q. Buddy Rice, are you looking at this as sort of a new lease on life, the way your 2003 ended and stuff, just sort of how are you approaching this opportunity?
BUDDY RICE: I mean, I'm approaching it, I mean, it's an excellent opportunity. But it's just like what I said before, I'm in substituting for Kenny Brack. I got to make sure that I take care of the car and make sure that we get the Team Rahal car up front and take care of keeping the sponsors happy and everything the way it's supposed to be. The main objective right here is just to go out and do the best job I can and make sure I keep the car up front and win races. What happens after that will happen. That's where we're at with the whole situation.
Q. Bobby, we were talking earlier, last week, your so-called CART team is in limbo right now. How long can it stay in limbo with all the stuff you're reading, you're hearing today where the IRL might be bidding on some of the CART assets, some of its races? How in limbo is that side of things right now?
BOBBY RAHAL: It's very much uncertain, without any doubt, particularly when you look at here it is mid January. Obviously, everybody has their cars and everything. The biggest problem is here you have a lot of people on a payroll. What do you do if it doesn't work out? In the meantime, you've been supporting the team on the presumption that it was. I think there's no question that the unknown is not good for CART. Thankfully we have our strong programs in IndyCar and of course the Atlantic program is much stronger this year. So there's a lot going on with us. Without doubt, the sooner there's some clarity to what's going on, the better for all parties.
Q. If, in fact, the IRL was to purchase some of the assets, including maybe the rights to a few of these races in CART, I don't know if they would go ahead and run this year or not, but would you have any intention at all of running Michel Jourdain in the IRL series?
BOBBY RAHAL: Let me make clear, the reason Michel Jourdain is in CART is because of Gigante. The races in Mexico are very important to Gigante. As I said maybe even a year or two ago when we went into the IRL, there was some criticism, I can't be presumptuous enough to tell our sponsors where I think they should be. They're going to go where they feel their customers are. That's why we're in CART with Michel Jourdain. If that didn't pan out, if CART didn't have a series, whatever they want to call it, open-wheel racing didn't have a series, we would do everything we could to convince Gigante to make the switch. But right now, they're happy to be in CART. As I say, until there's more clarity to what's going on, that's where I believe we'll be. But certainly Michel has proven his mettle on high-speed ovals. He almost won Michigan, what, a year or two ago. And with us last year in Fontana, I think he was in even a stronger position than Jimmy, two years ago. Unfortunately, the engine broke. But Michel has proven his worth I think on ovals.
Q. As a driver and as what I call an owner/driver because of the way you relate with your drivers, how difficult has it been to see Kenny rehabbing and sitting on the sidelines after that accident?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, you know, I still say when you look at the severity of that accident, it's only I think by the grace of God that Kenny is still with us. You know, I've always had nothing but the highest regard for Kenny. While I'm very -- while I was very upset when he got hurt, but his recovery, even with all the glitches, has been I think extraordinary. You know, he's still got that drive. I mean, one of the things I always respected, maybe the biggest thing I respected about Kenny was the way he approached his racing or his work. You talk work ethic, what have you, I don't know if I've ever seen anybody with it for the same degree. So naturally for us, you know, we don't necessarily like the situation we're in with Kenny being hurt. But at least he's recovering. We presume that he'll be back with us driving sometime during this year. But, you know, I've been in racing long enough to know that incidents do happen. I just think we're fortunate to have Buddy join us. I believed enough in him several years ago to have him under contract as an alternate in case one of our guys was sick or what have you. I'm just glad we're able to finally get it done. I think he's got a lot to prove, and that's good. Young guys should have a lot to prove. They should want to go out and show the world how good they are. We have to adapt. We have to prepare. We have sponsors that we're obligated to to give them our best effort. I think, yes, it's a shame that Kenny got hurt. But thankfully he's recovering. And at least we have to guy of Buddy's caliber to step into the breach.
Q. Best possible business scenario, what is best for open-wheel racing, the two separate series or this merger of the IRL and what is left of CART?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think it's pretty obvious two separate series don't make it. There's X amount of dollars. If you look -- if there's one series, there's probably minimally eight more cars, 10 more cars immediately in the Indy Racing League. Also, you have 20-car fields, 30-car fields. That's precisely what it needs. Conversely, if CART was stronger, the idea of 18-car fields, I think you can try to explain or spin that away as much as you want, but the reality is the more cars the better. So I definitely think there needs to be one series with all marketing efforts, all organizational effort dedicated to that one program. I mean, I think it's a shame that the situation exists as it does with CART. I know there's been a lot of genuine effort to try to take it to the next level. But at some point I really wonder if it's just time for everybody -- if it's opportunistic for everybody to finally get behind one deal and make it the best possible series in the United States.
TOM SAVAGE: Kenny has joined us now. Scott, as well. We'll move on to Kenny Brack. Kenny suffered multiple fractures in the season-ending race at Texas Motor Speedway in October of last year, and has been recovering in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio since the crash. Kenny, the first question is, how are you feeling after several months of recovery?
KENNY BRACK: Hi there. Happy New Year to everybody. I'm getting better and better by the day. Obviously, as soon as I got out of the hospital bed, got home, that's when the recovery really started. I think you can see several hundred percent difference in the last month already in my energy level and mobility and everything. So it's going pretty good actually.
TOM SAVAGE: Very good. Recently, Kenny, you and your wife Anita welcomed baby girl Karma. Tell us about becoming a father for the first time.
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, that's exciting. You know, we were both in the hospital at the same time because I was in there doing surgery at the same time. So it was good I guess to be in the same hospital, at least. But it's exciting, you know. It's a new little thing that's arrived to this world. It's something that's fantastic. But right now, you know, they sleep and eat at this age. They don't too many bad things around the house anyway.
TOM SAVAGE: Kenny, we talked to Bobby a little bit about this, but to start the season coming up next month, then in Miami, Phoenix in March, Japan in April, are you going to be with the team still in a consultant role? Are you still going to be at the racetrack as you continue your recovery?
KENNY BRACK: I hope so. I hope I can be as much as possible. I still like racing a lot. I still like the team. When I came back to Team Rahal, it wasn't just to drive a few races, it was for a long-term commitment. It was, you know, for making this effort succeed in this tough competition as it is. As much as I can help there, I will. We'll see what role that will be here in the beginning. But, you know, like I say, whatever I can do to help, I will.
TOM SAVAGE: Give us a status of your injuries, if you will. Seems like over the months we listen to how now you are sitting up, walking. Where are you at? Are you walking? What are you doing on a daily basis?
KENNY BRACK: Right now, I would say that I'm healed back so I can do normal things, except my right ankle isn't healed up completely yet. We're waiting for the last x-rays, which will be in a couple of weeks' time, until the doctors will let me weight bear on the right ankle. Once I can weight bear on the right leg, I will be walking like anybody else that has got two legs and no injuries. But right now I'm walking on crutches, using my left leg. I don't use any braces anymore for the back or any other part except for the right ankle where I have a little sort of (inaudible) shoe around just to keep it in a good position since I can't use the actual foot. That's where I'm at really right now.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you, Kenny. We'll open it up for questions now.
Q. When was Karma born?
KENNY BRACK: She was born on the 31st of December, 6:30 in the evening. New Year's baby.
Q. When you think about getting back in the race car, number one, how anxious are you? Is part of being anxious, if you are anxious to get back in the car, which you probably are, is it to get that first ride out of the way to say, "All right, I got to prove to myself I can do this again"?
KENNY BRACK: No, not really. I don't think I have doubts in my mind I can do it again. It's something rather that I've always done. I've always lived with racing. I love the sport. Yeah, I've always also known that it has risks and stuff can happen times. You know, this is what I've been doing successfully in the past, and that's what I want to do successfully for a while longer really. I still think that I'm very competitive on the track. You know, it's my life basically. I just want to try to get back into that position. And when you ask how soon do I want, I wanted that yesterday. But, you know, I got to wait until my bones are completely healed and I feel completely a hundred percent healed back up. I mean, it's no point kidding yourself or anybody else getting in a car when you're not healed up or feel a hundred percent for it. You kid yourself, you might have another bad wreck or you're not going to do the team any good. So you got to consider all those things. I'll wait till that happens. But hopefully that will happen soon.
Q. Is there any way that you can keep your skills honed to be better prepared? I guess I'm talking past the rehab point of being in shape, hand-eye coordination kind of thing.
KENNY BRACK: No, there's nothing I can do right now to really, you know, on the driving side. Basically you hone those skills when you race, test and drive the car. The rest of it is physical activity and mental training, all that kind of stuff, which I'm doing on a daily basis through rehab and other various things. That's all I can do right now.
Q. Is your rehab almost like you would fine tune a car or set a car up? In other words, is that how you look at it and push yourself? I've done rehab. It's painful.
KENNY BRACK: Right now my rehab is, first of all, stretching to get all the muscles back, you know, in shape so that they're the right length and stuff like that. If you've been in a situation like this, you know. But people that haven't, you'd be amazed to see how fast muscles deteriorate and how fast the body deteriorates when you're lying in a bed for like six, seven weeks. So part of the rehab is stretching. Part of the rehab is weight training. Part of the rehab is fitness training, like water therapy and stuff like that.
Q. Have you talked to anybody like Rick Mears, who went through a lot of the same rehab on his ankles, feet, to see how they progressed?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I talked to a lot of drivers, both present and past ones, active ones, but not really in a way for rehabbing and stuff like that. I kind of looked at it as I'm going to push myself as much as I can every day. That's all I can do. I don't know if anybody else's rehab schedule would help me or mine help any other person, for that matter, because I think it's pretty individual how you heal and what you do, how you push yourself and so forth. It's a day-by-day sort of schedule right now, you know.
Q. Has the way Alex Zanardi has come back inspired you, inspired other drivers?
KENNY BRACK: I think Alex, obviously, is a fantastic personality. He's surely done a tremendous recovery. And it's great to see that people do that. I think for myself, yeah, I mean, I'm happy for him and I'm happy that he did that. I think every driver that gets in an awkward position somewhere, most of them I think will dig and find that strength that make them sort of try to come back in one way or another and do the best of the situation. For myself, I can say that during this whole process, there's not been anything but positive thoughts in my head about healing and trying to make a comeback into racing and stuff like that. I think through all the pain and through all the operations and all that stuff and everything, I think it just helps you, you know, go through all that in the best possible way.
Q. Kenny, you know first hand the safety of the IRL cars, safety of racing in the oval series. There was a lot of talk last year about whether or not the cars were safe, whether it was too dangerous for oval track racing. Give me some reaction about all of this. I would think that you know better than anybody else how safe or unsafe the cars are.
KENNY BRACK: Well, I first of all got to just clarify. Oval racing, it's the most dangerous form of motorsport there is because of the speeds and the lack of run-off areas and stuff like that. So that's something that we have to deal with every lap we run and all that stuff. But, you know, I would say that the cars have been developed and are very safe. You know, if you can do a crash like I did in Texas and several other drivers have done during the years, stuff like that last year, okay, maybe you get a little injured or whatever, but you still walk away with everything intact, so to speak, possible to come back to a normal life and a career in racing and stuff like that. You got to say that the cars are safe. But the fact is that the speeds are extremely high, and there are no run-off areas. There are only ovals on the schedule, so you sort of expose yourself for that kind of risk every second you're driving. It's difficult to make it foolproof. I don't think it's possible to make anything foolproof, quite frankly.
Q. I kind of know the answer to this, but maybe not. When you were in the hospital there recovering, is there anything inside of you that said "Maybe this is the end of my career and I need to think about perhaps doing something else"?
KENNY BRACK: I haven't really thought any thoughts like that. My focus have been to basically learn about my injuries and talk to the doctors and get their opinion about how it's going to heal and how long it's going to take and so forth. You know, after having done that, I think everybody that's worked on me has been on the opinion that, yeah, the injuries are serious, but they will heal, and it will take somewhere between five to six months from the accident date. You know, I never been in a position like this, so obviously I can't say if that's going to be five or six months or if it's going to be three months or 12 months. But for now I believe the doctors and I'm keep working hard at making a comeback. Sure, it hurts. It has hurt a lot and so forth. But like the last three weeks I've been home, I've been seeing a tremendous recovery, as well. Started rehabbing, stuff like that, I'm up all day, walking around on the crutches, stuff like that, got rid of all the braces. It is getting better pretty fast at the moment.
Q. Would sports cars be an option if you came back, maybe there was too much danger in having your feet dangling out there like they are in open-wheel?
KENNY BRACK: The thing is that I want to be a hundred percent if I'm going to get behind the wheel. If I feel that I don't have a hundred percent of the qualities I need to drive in a particular series, is no point for me getting in a car just to ride around. Now, if there's other racing series out there that may be lesser in physical strain or goes slower so you don't have to have all the reaction maybe, whatever, would I be interested in that? Perhaps. But that's not something I really have given much thought to at this point because at this point I'm a hundred percent focused on trying to make a good comeback and rehabbing.
Q. I'm not sure if you're aware that last month Texas Motor Speedway management announced they were going to do a $400,000 fence improvement program at the track in the wake of your crash. They're going to reinforce the backstretch fencing, put a fence around the infield wall, raise the backstretch fencing. Did you ever have any problems with the way safety was at TMS?
KENNY BRACK: You know, put it this way, we all agreed to race there. To come afterwards and say something about it... You should say something beforehand. I think what Texas Motor Speedway have done with the facilities and everything, it's a world class facility, first of all. It's an impressive facility. They've always had good racing there, especially in the IndyCar Series. I think it's great news that they continue to improve the facility.
Q. Are you saying now that the Indy 500 maybe is not a realistic goal, that you're going to have to push this back a little bit farther?
KENNY BRACK: I don't know that. I couldn't tell you one way or another right now. Rehab is going well. Everything is going well. But if that's a realistic goal or not, it's very difficult to say. If I would have been in this position before, maybe I could give you a hint. But I haven't. I just let everything heal in the time it needs to have to heal. It's not really a lot you can do to speed up the healing process, bones and stuff like that.
Q. Can you tell me a little bit about, you have this new baby, your wife and everything, how is your family feeling about you coming back that possibility? Has there been any trepidation, I guess, of you getting back in a car?
KENNY BRACK: Well, you know, I obviously haven't -- Karma hasn't said so much quite yet, maybe because she can't talk (laughter). But anyway, I think that, you know, Anita and me, we been together for 11, 12 years, so she's always been around racing. I think we both know that it's got many great things and it's also got the risk factor. I think that, you know, she certainly didn't appreciate, of course, me getting hurt, but on the other hand she will support whatever decision I decide to make in the end. Like I say, she's been very supportive so far. She continues to be and will be. I don't think those factors will factor in on the decision. The decision will be based upon, you know, my physical condition basically, if I get a hundred percent recovery and so forth.
Q. I didn't know if being a father changed anything in your eyes of being back in the car with this kind of risk.
KENNY BRACK: No, not really. I mean, you know, that's another spectrum, of course, to family life and stuff like that, no doubt. But, no, it hasn't changed my feelings for racing at all.
Q. Have you watched any coverage? Did you watch any film of your crash? Is that something that if you haven't, you don't want to see it? Can you just talk about that? Have you ever seen it?
KENNY BRACK: I have seen a lot of still pictures from it. I haven't yet seen the video. That has to do with I don't have it. Basically I never have, you know, gone back home after a race and watched myself race, so it's not something that is a normal procedure for me. I will get the tape sometime here and look at it. It's not something that bothers me. I already know the outcome. It's not something that I would be worried about. It's just that I haven't got around to it yet.
Q. With the kind of crash that you had, with the type of racing that has gone on in the IRL, do you have any kind of thoughts about possibly lowering the speeds or doing something so the racing can still be exciting without it being dangerous and putting you in that situation that puts you into a fence?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I mean, basically when you have that close a racing, if you lower the speeds 10 miles an hour or 20 miles an hour, will it make a difference if you hit the fence? I don't know. I would think if it's 230 or 210, it's going to make a little bit of a difference. But I don't think maybe it's going to make a really, really big difference. So I think as long as you have tracks and cars that allow side-by-side racing, stuff like that, I think there's always going to be that element of risk there. You know there's a chain reaction happening to a move or something like that, cars touch what else, something happens. So I don't know really what the answer to that question is.
Q. You look back on that crash, just the kind of racing that's gone on this season, are you surprised something like that hasn't happened before?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I mean, if you look, there are incidents in every race. Somebody spins, somebody touches wheels. You know, sometimes they get away with it, sometimes you end in the fence. There's always incidents in racing competitions. I think that this time it was -- you know, it just hit in a certain way that made it really, really violent. But the car did its job. At least it protected its driver as much as it could. Although I had a lot of injuries, I still sit here today and talk. You know, it's something that's always going to be there in racing, no matter if it's IndyCar racing, Formula 1. The only difference I think is that oval racing is a very dangerous form of motorsport because all the high speeds and also because of the lack of run-off area. NASCAR do the same thing. They run a lot of ovals. They have incidents, too. But fortunately not too many have really serious injuries, but some of them do. It's the nature of the sport basically.
Q. We've all talked about your racing, how about your band?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, well, you know, we haven't played -- well, we played at the Team Rahal Christmas party actually. We don't have that many gigs during the winter period. But we certainly couldn't afford to cancel the one we had. So we played at the Rahal Christmas party 12th of December. It's still there. We're still talking. We're doing something music and stuff, having fun with it. It's a fun side project.
Q. You said you were in the hospital yourself when Karma was born. Were you in there for another kind of situation? What was the deal on that?
KENNY BRACK: Yeah, because since I laid down for so long, I lost a lot of weight in the hospital and stuff, my gallbladder decided to call it quits. I had to go in and remove the gallbladder over Christmas and New Year's.
Q. Takes a lot of gall to drive a race car.
KENNY BRACK: I hope not because I don't have it anymore (laughter).
Q. Why Karma? Was it good Karma? Why the name Karma?
KENNY BRACK: Well, I hope it's good Karma, yeah. But, no, not really. It wasn't because of that. It was because, first of all, you know, it's finding a name you like, so we thought Karma was a nice name. Secondly, it's easy to pronounce in both English and Swedish. Thirdly, you know, she's also named Amelia Helena. If she don't like it when she's 19 or 20 or something, she can always change, I guess. Of course, she will be cut out of the will anyway (laughter).
Q. Are you allowed to drive with your left foot only type thing? Are you getting chauffeured around? Obviously, you're waiting for the right foot to get cleared. How limited are you getting around in that respect?
KENNY BRACK: Well, right now I've had -- since I've had Anita and my mother and father here, they've been driving me. But I can drive now really. It's not a big deal. I got mobility in the left foot. It's close to back to normal. The right foot, it's just that I can't put any weight on it. I can't really walk on it. But I walk on crutches, put down my left leg and just wait another couple, three weeks for the right foot. We're going to take another set of x-rays and then we'll see. The doctors seem to think we can start putting some weight on it in two to three weeks' time.
TOM SAVAGE: We'd like to thank you for being on today's teleconference. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
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