INDIANAPOLIS The safety measures put into play for major racing series over the past decade sometimes make us forget just how dangerous motorsports can be.
And then something like Kenny Brack's crash on lap 187 of the season-ending Chevy 500 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series contest at Texas Motor Speedway serves as a graphic reminder.
Brack had contact with Tomas Scheckter just before turn 3 of the steeply banked 1.5-mile oval and his car went airborne, later coming to lie in multiple pieces scattered both on and off the racing surface. The undertray of Kenny's Dallara sat on the retaining wall; the engine lay on the track.
And Kenny Brack? Brack sustained mighty serious injuries, but it looked much worse: fractures to both ankles, his right femur, sternum and lumbar area. Two surgeries have been performed since that Sunday and physicians, led by the Indy Racing League's medical director Dr. Henry Bock don't foresee any recovery difficulties for the 37-year-old Swede.
It's time to exhale again. Brack, returning to the IRL after three CART seasons that saw him nearly snatch the championship in his second year driving for Team Rahal, has had a difficult homecoming to the series where he won a title (1998) and Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (1999).
Of course everything was new in the League this year, with teams coming over from CART, rules changes that enabled entries of engine makers Toyota and Honda to the all-oval series. Brack's Team Rahal allied with Honda and Dallara; all IRL cars ride on Firestone rubber.
Some drivers who saw the accident didn't want to talk about it, notably Dan Wheldon, who went on to take Bombardier Rookie of the Year honors by finishing third in the Chevy 500. "Kenny is a friend of mine," Wheldon said, "and I really can't talk about it."
A response like that leads to the assumption that KB moved down on Scheckter; some video makes it look that way. Yet it would be wrong to place blame on Kenny Brack in what is clearly a racing accident.
At this point in time, it is better to simply celebrate the wonderful guy Kenny Brack is and his career as an exceptional chauffeur; it's imperative to think as he must at this time that racing will be part of his future.
But unlike so many in the business, at least Kenny has something to fall back on should this incident end his brilliant career as a racing driver. Music has always been Kenny Brack's release.
"It's my golf," he always laughs when asked about his gig as guitarist for Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers, a 7-person group that counts PR people Laz Denes (Mo Nunn Racing) and Kathy Prather of Greg Ray's Access Motorsports among its members. There are also four full professional musicians in the group.
They've produced a CD that benefits CARA Charities, a group that manages to transcend the Open Wheel Civil War with ease. The CD was recorded at the 2003 Nashville night race won ironically, by a man who can't carry a tune: Gil de Ferran. The trophy was a guitar, something Kenny could have used, but there's no axe for taking sixth.
There have been niggling problems that have held back Kenny Brack and his Pioneer/Miller Lite-sponsored Dallara/Honda this season. They had high hopes, as everyone does at the start of the year, of bringing home a title.
Consistency kept Kenny at the sharp end of the points standings as Kenny had only four DNFs coming into Texas #2, but Team Rahal expected more from the Swede, considering his exceptional talent and knowledge of many tracks on the Indy Racing League circuit.
A second place finish at Twin Ring Motegi, a race Brack won for Team Rahal in CART during his near-championship year of 2001, well, that was the best he could do. He was in the hunt for season-long honors until the Gateway round August 10th, but after that it appeared as though the team had lost their way.
Kenny was nowhere during the first three-quarters of the Chevy 500 despite starting seventh, yet when the final round of pit stops were complete, there he was, running among the top five or six drivers and mixing it up with the championship contenders.
Most likely he could smell blood and was going for it. That's what we expect a proper race car driver to do, isn't it?
Kenny Brack has a long rehabilitation ahead of him and wife Anita is expecting a baby girl the end of December, their first child. He's expected to make a full recovery from his accident at Texas Motor Speedway and he's still the same Kenny we've all come to know and love.
It wouldn't surprise me to see him back in a car once his bones have healed. Ten or more years ago, Kenny Brack might have died from his injuries. He didn't, and that's something for which we should all be grateful. Kenny's one of the good guys.