I like to think I have a good handle on the place, and the three years we've finished, we've finished top three. But at Indy, more than anywhere else, you win or you're nowhere. So it's all about the race. As long as you have the speed to get the car in the field, that's all that matters in qualifying. It's 500 miles so I focus on race work through the month of May. Last year, I was the one of the five of us who was like, “Guys, we can win this,” while they're just downbeat, looking at how far off we were speed-wise from the Penskes. OK, it's not just a mentality: you have to go out and make it happen, but when you have a good setup for the race, you can still make things happen.
It's a shame 2006 has been the closest so far. When we came out of the pits for that final time, I had a bunch of cars ahead of me and so I radioed the team and asked who was for position and who wasn't. And they said I was second, so I asked who the leader was. They said, “You're not gonna believe this, but it's your dad.” I actually went back on the radio and said, “You've gotta be kidding me!” Leading up to the race, that's all the questions me and Dad had gotten – what if this scenario happened – and here it was. Pretty unbelievable.
I was really confident under that yellow because I had new tires and he didn't – and he knew my tire situation, too, so that's why he didn't challenge me. He could have been tougher on me for sure. From the restart, with four laps to go, I was flat. Bryan Herta [a teammate -Ed.] helped me a bit to get through and then I got the run on Dad the following lap – but at the same time, I think we knew we weren't racing each other. We knew who we were racing, because Sam and Penske had a huge speed advantage that whole month – the biggest advantage they've ever had over us in the last five years at Indy. We were both flat from that green flag and he was something like 7mph quicker. Crazy.
I did actually think I had the race won at one point. I baited him into taking the inside line into Turn 3 on the second-from-last lap and he took it, and I knew by the closing rate that he wouldn't have enough to actually make the pass there, so I just shut the door and he lost momentum. Against any other car, that would have won me the race, but how he made up all that ground on the final lap is beyond me. I was absolutely flat-out and he still got me on the run to the finish line.
The only thing that allows me to sleep at night is knowing I couldn't and wouldn't have done anything different. If he has a head of steam like Sam had, he's coming around you whichever way you move. The only way to stop him would be to crash him and that isn't an alternative I'd even think about.
Still kills me though…
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