Brack on the Mend

INDIANAPOLIS, December 3, 2003&#151

While this time of year could be construed as the most boring for those of us who live and die by the scent of methanol, there was some good news out of Indianapolis today. Kenny Brack is headed to his US-based home near Columbus, OH after rehabbing his lower extremities in Indy for over a month.

With wife Anita expecting their first child at the end of December, this is good news for KB, who had been doing a great deal of work on their Upper Arlington, OH home before his late-race shunt in the season-ending Chevy 500K race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Anita Brack at her baby shower.

Not that Kenny will be doing any carpentry leading up to his baby’s birth but, for Anita, it’s got to be good to have him back home again. “It was very emotional to see Kenny up on his feet and walking with crutches,” Anita noted. “He is improving daily now and I’m sure he will be working harder in therapy as he gets stronger. He and I are thrilled to be back home in Columbus now.”

Kenny and Anita Brack have been quite the mobile family, living where their jobs took them which, last year was Indianapolis and this year returned them to the Columbus area where they’d set some roots with Team Rahal.

Brack, the 1998 IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner in 1999&#151both successes gained with A.J. Foyt Enterprises&#151left the security of an IRL career with the Texan to join Team Rahal’s CART squad in 2000. The first year he achieved Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year honors (the award named for team co-owner Bobby Rahal’s mentor) and fourth overall in a very competitive season.

In 2001 Brack came close to the title and finished second to Gil de Ferran even as he won the most races (four), set six pole positions and led 621 laps. The problem for Kenny was, unfortunately, the propensity of his teammate “Mad” Max Papis to find the Swede’s sidepod. Could it have been the bright yellow Shell colors that attracted Max?

One more year in CART for consummate professional Brack saw him take sixth in points with Team Target, as he ended the season with victory in the Champ Cars’ first visit to Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the former Formula One circuit where hotel maids used to sweep the straights between sessions.

So it was time to go home again for KB, back to Team Rahal and to the IndyCar Series Indy Racing League, where the [now] 37-year-old had his best American success. Kenny was loaded for action with most of the same crew that worked with him in 2000-1 when he nearly copped the CART title. They wanted to work with Kenny and they all came back just for that purpose.

Honda came onboard with Team Rahal for the 2003 IRL season and that was an interesting proposition. After all, Bobby Rahal’s team (with Mike Groff as second driver) had been first to test Honda’s Champ Car motor when the Japanese firm decided to compete in CART. That first effort was heavy, slow and Bobby wanted out. He used a bit of trash talk on Honda and, when the company won its first CART race at New Hampshire with Andre Ribeiro and Team Tasman, Honda VP Tom Elliott noted that he wasn’t celebrating with a Miller Lite beer, Rahal’s sponsor.

Kenny Brack

So, the important lesson was learned by Rahal, who seems to have mellowed a bit and no longer severs his ties quite so quickly. Honda arrived late in the 2003 IndyCar Series with only a few teams: Andretti Green Racing, Team Rahal, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and, later with Access Motorsports. It was a pretty successful season, as Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the standings for AGR.

Brack didn’t have the kind of luck he wanted or needed this year in his #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda and took ninth in the championship after all 16 races were run. He only fell out of four races, but there were no MBNA pole positions, no victories, only five top 5 finishes, only eight top 10 results, only 23 laps led.

Kenny might have been trying hard to get the same kind of result he achieved with Team Target in 2003&#151get out of there with a win in the last race&#151as he was running in the lead draft on lap 188. We’ll never know because I’d bet he’ll never tell.

But now there’s a lot of rehab in front of him and uncertainty as to whether Kenny Brack will race again. At this point, though, he’s got to feel good to be away from Methodist Hospital and Rehabilitation Hospital in Indianapolis. The transfer means he’s on the way back to good health.

“I can tell you I feel I am getting stronger every day,” declared Brack. “I was ecstatic the other day when the leg doctor came in and said ‘your bones are healing faster than what we expected and you can start walking on your left leg tomorrow’. Since then, I have walked nearly every day,” and that’s quite an accomplishment.

“Every day I am walking a little bit further. I have been walking with crutches,” because he has to start with a bit of assistance. Call them the “pit crew” Kenny’s leaning on these days. “That’s a lot harder as it requires more balance and it wears me out really fast at the moment. That’s what happens when you spend about six to seven weeks in bed!”

Kenny Brack is currently working out at Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Center at the Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus. It’s inpatient therapy for the time being. He expects to back at home within two weeks while continuing outpatient physical therapy in Columbus. It’ll be a merrier Christmas for the soon-to-be-enlarged Brack family than perhaps they’d thought a few weeks ago.

And for all of us who claim to be race fans, this news gives us an even happier holiday season.

&#151Anne Proffit