THE RACING SEASON REALLY HEATING UP
If you were out for a walk Monday through Boston Common, you may have seen me driving an IndyCar down Charles Street.
No, I’m not kidding. I drove a racing car through the park, and it’s possible that I found the only smooth road in the entire city.
Actually, both Juan Pablo Montoya and I had great fun with it. As a promotion for our upcoming IndyCar race and Monty’s NASCAR races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, we drove our cars down the street – quite slowly, of course – as a group of journalists videotaped and photographed it.
We did not get stopped for speeding, but we discovered a use for the empty space on the passenger side of a NASCAR Sprint Cup car – storing luggage. Everyone was surprised when we pulled our travel bags out the right-side window. I don’t have that kind of room in my car.
We were both really well-behaved, which was unusual for us. The last time we were that close in anything was when we raced in CART years ago. Before that, we raced together in DTM in Europe. Let’s just say there were times when there was a lot of carbon fiber missing from both cars.
The last few days have been extremely busy for everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. As you probably saw, we raced twice at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night. I won the first one, then drew 28th to start the second race and finished seventh. My teammate Scott Dixon did a great job with two second-place finishes.
It was extremely difficult to gain 21 positions in the second race because it went green from start to finish. With no yellow flags, we had to make things happen. We did a good job with what we were dealt. It’s just too bad that the lottery element of the second race dominated the night. It was a good night and a bad night at the same time.
The victory in the first race the 28th of my career, which moved me to 10th all-time, but afterward the controversy was about the draw. We led almost the whole bloody race, but afterward everybody was talking about the lottery aspects of the second race.
But on Monday, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard apologized for the draw. It’s nice to have somebody in charge who recognizes that it wasn’t right and intends to fix it, but I do wish they would consult with the drivers before they try new things like that.
His apology does mollify me a little, but it doesn’t change what happened.
A blind draw is fine for an all-star type of race, but not correct for a championship race. It's one thing to qualify 25 places behind your closest championship contender and 10 behind your next closest competitor if you or the team messes up qualifying, but it’s quite another when it happens because of a random draw. The difference in points between finishing third and 28th – where Will and I started – is 13 points, but I raced back up to seventh and still lost 14 to him.
All the drivers I spoke to agreed that an inversion of the finishing positions from the first race would be the fairest way to line up for the second race.
The three championships I won came by a total of 29 points – and last year I won by just five points – so you can see how important every point is.
That said, the second race was an extreme challenge. The feel of the car is different when you start in the back. The setup on the car is completely different. The turbulence is crazy, so I'm really proud of the fact that we were able to make up those 21 positions during the race. They were two completely different races. For a while, it felt like I was on a completely different racetrack.
In the first race, I had some moments with lapped cars, but it was straightforward race – if you consider sliding a car around at 215 mph straightforward. But in the second race, it was tough just to keep the car out of the fence. The turbulence was almost like the wind gusting. You’d get behind two cars going side-by-side and you’d lose 3 or 4 seconds to the leaders.
Without yellows, there wasn’t much of a chance to close the distance. It was a 114-lap sprint race -- who would have thought there wouldn’t be a single yellow flag? The drivers deserve credit for that. Nobody made a mistake bad enough to bring out a caution, but it was close on a few occasions.
But I’m proud of our effort. We got an important win and did the best we possibly could with the second race, and now it’s off to The Milwaukee Mile this weekend.
Milwaukee is the closest track to what we’re going to be doing in August at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Milwaukee is a flat mile track, just like NHMS. Sunday’s race is going to show us the potential frontrunners for the New Hampshire race.
Milwaukee is a track that everybody loves. It’s a very, very difficult track to get right. That’s why we love it.
We’re racers, and we love a good challenge.