Throughout the next two weeks, members of the reigning Indy 500 champion team, Bryan Herta Autosport, will be blogging here on RACER.com. We start with team co-owner, Bryan Herta, recalling last year's stunning win, and how the spirit of Dan Wheldon remains strong at BHA.
Without hesitation I can say that the last 12 months have been the most incredible highs and lowest of lows I have ever experienced in my life. Looking back now, it seems like a lot more than a year ago that we turned up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a plucky little team, a cool sponsor (William Rast), a novel partnership with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and Daniel Clive Wheldon.
I remember in our first run in practice, we were not particularly fast, and we had some concern: Dan had predicted a win and the weight of obligation to provide a former winner with the car we knew he deserved to drive at Indy weighed heavily on all of our team. By the second day, though, the car started to show its speed and we all started believing what Dan had been telling us since he signed with us – that he was here to win this race and we had better be, too.
All month long we had a dry-erase board hanging in our garage that we used for the team's “to do” list during preparations for the race. The list grew long on that board and as each task was accomplished it was duly crossed off. Then, at the bottom of the list, Dan wrote in capital letters our last task for the month: “WIN INDY 500.”
That little note served as a daily reminder of our mission and, along with Dan's presence in the garage every day, rain or shine, hanging with the boys, making the tiniest adjustments to the car or seat or mirrors, set the tone for all of us. I saw an amazing thing happen within our team throughout May. It has been said many times but bears repeating here: Dan's 100 percent belief that we would give him a car that could win the Indy 500 raised our game in every conceivable way.
So, the race and finish has been well chronicled, but my favorite moment was away from the cameras and chaos of Victory Circle; it was when we all returned to our garage and Dan marched over to that board and crossed off the last item on our “to do” list. It was a spontaneous action, but we all cheered loudly and each and every one of us high-fived around the garage and for a few moments shared an unbridled joy over the incredible thing that had just happened.
The contrast from that moment and the fateful day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is incomprehensibly stark. I still don't know how to express my feelings about all that has happened. I am grateful that here in Indy we have different garages this year than we did last. I am in awe of Susie Wheldon and her amazing poise and dignity; she has shown strength and a depth of character that is truly amazing. I hope within our team we can carry forward Dan's spirit, bravery, confidence and commitment in a way that honors his memory. And I hope that Dan Wheldon will forever be remembered for his unbounded passion for competing and winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lionheart forever.
Another month of May has begun. I am massively proud of our team and the effort they have made this year. Starting with this race, we have changed engine supplier from Lotus to Honda, and despite the extra work for the crew, the car is immaculate and we are all looking forward to a great race. Alex Tagliani has done a tremendous job for us this year, both in and out of the car: With the first few races being a struggle for us, his willingness to go above and beyond for our sponsors has been much appreciated by all.
But now we have no more excuses, which is exactly the situation we all want to be in. Opening weekend has given us a chance to shake down the car and get ourselves up to speed with all the new systems and settings for the Honda engine. Now we start the week-long process of squeezing every last ounce of speed out of the car as we inch toward Pole Day Qualifications. It's good to have last year's polesitter driving for us, and while I am not so bold to make predictions, I know we have all the ingredients to get the job done. The real work has begun…