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MOTOR RACING / VINCE KOWALICK : Brown Doesn't Become Unhinged When Facing a Closed Door

August 21, 1993|VINCE KOWALICK

Doors keep opening for Zak Brown. Of course, Brown is the one responsible. And boy, are his knuckles getting sore.

Brown, 21, a resident of North Hollywood who sees himself on the fast track to Indianapolis, has never met a potential sponsor, promoter or newspaper reporter he wasn't reluctant to pester in his quest toward the top of the racing world.

All are routinely subjected to the Zak attack.

"If you say no to me, I'll take it as a no," Brown said. "But that doesn't mean you'll never hear from me again."

All of which probably has contributed to Brown's surprising success over the past few seasons racing in Europe. With limited sponsorship, Brown has more than made the most of the opportunity while continuing toward his goal of becoming a driver on the Indy Car circuit.

"I've just been plugging away, day in and day out, and we still haven't hit the top," Brown said. "If you want something really bad, you don't let people get in your way. This is a dream that has been with me from Day 1."

At age 18, Brown, a former go-kart champion who attended Taft High, traveled to England and shocked a field of 60 competitors with a runaway victory in his first Formula Ford 1600 series race.

After competing part time the following season in England's Vauxhall Lotus series, Brown again raised eyebrows last season in Europe's Dutch Opel Lotus series, placing ninth in points while competing in about half the season's events. Brown finished among the top 10 in all but one race.

This season, Brown is fourth in the Dutch Opel Lotus points standings after seven of 10 events. The series resumes Sept. 5 in Zandvoort, Holland.

Between trips across the Atlantic, Brown has continued to seek racing experience. On Aug. 8, he made his debut as a substitute driver in the Players Ltd. Toyota Atlantic Championship series and drove to a seventh-place finish in Louden, N.H., in the supporting event for that weekend's Indy Car race. Brown plans to compete in more of the series' events.

Have coveralls, will drive.

"We work really hard and now that it seems people know we're for real, people are giving us contacts," Brown said. "We're starting to get some doors opened for us."

Brown's big break came last season when he landed Trans World Airlines as his primary sponsor in the Lotus series. Although TWA accounts for 75% of Brown's backing, he is keenly aware that he needs more money to go faster longer. Brown's annual racing budget is $250,000. Top competitors, he said, have a budget in excess of $400,000.

"We're extremely competent, but we haven't been winning races," Brown said. "We don't have the equipment to do it. Motor racing is so much different than football or baseball. I played hockey for a long time and I can tell you, your stick just doesn't have that much to do with how good of a hockey player you are."

Putting together a pitch is Brown's strong suit. But getting his foot in the door hasn't always been easy.

"In the old days, it was really hard," Brown said. "I'd say, 90% of the (sponsors), you couldn't even talk to. Secretaries screen calls and you can't get through. Here's this 18-year-old kid who's ambitious but probably isn't ready to start wheeling and dealing with the marketing people at Coca-Cola.

"Now, I work really hard on that. I work on that first, driving second. There is a reason Andretti is a household name. And we want to establish a household name."

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Midgets return: The USAC Western States Midgets series resumes tonight at Ventura Raceway after a monthlong break. Robby Flock of Temecula leads the full-Midget points standings and Kenny White of Ventura is the three-quarter Midget series leader.

During the break, Page Jones of Rolling Hills, son of former Indy 500 champion Parnelli Jones, won the championship of the 16th Belleville (Kan.) Midget Nationals. Jones currently is sixth in the full-Midget standings.

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Motocross: Mike Kiedrowski of Acton, the American Motorcyclist Assn.'s 250cc champion in 1993, will be among three riders representing the United States in the 1993 Motocross des Nations on Sept. 12 in Schwanenstadt, Austria.

Kiedrowski, 24, a four-time AMA champion and runner-up in this season's Camel Supercross Series, joins Jeff Emig of Highland Ranch and Jeremy McGrath of Murrieta to form an all-California team that will vie for a 13th consecutive win for the American team. The annual event began in 1947.

Kiedrowski was a member of the winning American teams in Germany in 1989 and Holland in 1991.

Emig, 22, AMA 125cc champion in 1992, made his debut with the American team last season in Australia. McGrath, 21, is making his first appearance in the event.

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Rolling along: The NASCAR Southwest Tour resumes tonight at Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo.

The race is the second at Colorado's three-eighth-mile oval in the tour's eight-year history. Hometown favorite Rick Carelli of Denver, current points leader on the NASCAR Winston West series and last year's winner of the tour race at Erie, will drive the event.

Ron Hornaday Jr. of Palmdale, the tour's current points leader, will be making his 100th career start on the tour. . . .

The Winston West series will resume Sept. 4 at Tri-City Raceway in West Richland, Wash. .

The L.A. Kart Club returns to Saugus Speedway today. Practice begins at 6:30 a.m. Racing is from 8 a.m. until noon. Saugus' evening program will include Sportsman, Grand American Modifieds and Street Stock oval and figure eights.

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