By Bill Wood
I watched him go through a test session Tuesday at the now-decommissioned El Toro Marine Base in Southern California. He threw the AWD, 800 horsepower, 0-60-in-two-seconds Fiesta around the former air strips at El Toro with great skill, even burning the tires off the car like the best of drifters at one point. And each time he emerged from the beast he did it with a smile. Brack is a driver and he likes to drive. He even smiles when he talks about teaching young drivers to drive.
Will he be competitive this weekend? Probably not. But Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, Tanner Foust and Andrew Comrie-Picard, the guys who will compete for the gold at X, wouldn’t be competitive at Indianapolis either.
In a thoughtful conversation Tuesday, Brack talked about the driver safety challenges in open-wheel racing, especially Formula 1. Here’s a guy who wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the driver safety challenges met 10 years ago in IndyCar, saying you can’t make racing perfectly safe. Brack wasn’t smiling when he talked about the Felipe Massa accident, the calls to close the cockpit in open-wheel racing, and the efforts to make racing as safe as the chair behind a desk.
“Racing’s not safe,” Brack said succinctly. Kenny can say that because he’s climbed out of the abyss, dusted himself off and kept going to exemplify the arguments on both sides of that fence.
“One of my goals getting back into IndyCar racing and making a comeback at the Indy 500 in 2005 was I wanted to prove to myself that I was fully recovered,” Brack told me. He qualified 23rd and finished 26th when the Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer race car failed him in the end.
“What better receipt can you get than going into the Indy 500 and knowing you’re competitive,” Brack added. “Then you know you’re back to where you were before the accident, and then you know the future’s in your hands and you can make that decision how you’re going to play the future.”
Brack wouldn’t say he’s retired, but he did say he wouldn’t race again full time.
You don’t put Kenny Brack’s personality behind a desk. He’ll be in racing – teaching, training, dabbling – and he of all people deserves to decide on his own terms how, when and why he’ll handle all of that, no matter what happens this weekend at X Games 15.