I don't think that accident affected my performance in qualifying – again because I knew what caused it. I've never understood drivers who got out of an accident and said, “Man, I don't know what caused it.” If I'd ever felt that way, I'd have been scared to death. I never crashed without knowing something had happened. I might not know what it was, but I felt something wasn't right. If I made a mistake, I knew it. If I yanked the wheel, if I went in too deep, if I picked the throttle up too soon, braked too hard, missed my entry, I knew I had caused it.
It's like at Sanair when I did my feet in, I had no problem with getting back in the car the next time because I knew what I had done to cause it…and I knew not to do that again. That's how you learn. In this 1992 Indy shunt, which had been caused by a waterline breaking and spraying the rear tire, I knew something had gone wrong before I ever hit.
Did it affect my driving at Indy that year? No, I don't think so. As a team, we just weren't on it. None of the Penske cars were very good. I was right up with my teammates and they were always my yardstick. Yeah, I'm a team player and teamwork is best – that's how you get an advantage over other teams. But at the end of the day, I'd better be ahead of my teammates, no matter what. If we're down and only running 15th and 16th, I better make sure I'm the one who's 15th.
I certainly hadn't decided to retire at that time, either. I didn't really get serious thinking about it until farther down the road. Michigan was another indicator. I got out of the car while it was still running and the only other time I had done that was when I had a rock thrown up in my eye at the Meadowlands and I could only see out of one. Apart from that, I'd never gotten out of a car while it was still running – my ego wouldn't let me! So at Michigan, I got out because it was bad, bad loose and I feared I was going to take someone else out with me. I had my arm in a splint at the time, and I wasn't convinced I could catch it if it got too loose. We found out I'd got fractures and torn ligaments in there, and I was going to need surgery and miss the next couple races, and that gave me more time to sit and think about retirement.
Finally, I put all the little indicators together, and it finally dawned on me: “You idiot! If you're already thinking about retirement, it's too late. You're already there.” That suddenly clicked one morning, and I said, "OK, that's it." I hadn't talked to anyone about retirement before I'd made the decision, except my brother and my wife. They were the only two. I didn't want anyone influencing my decision, any other input; it had to be a decision I made for me.
I then brought it up with Roger [Penske] before I had 100 percent made up my mind and he said: “Hey, it's a decision you and only you can make. It's up to you.” But I think the very next words out of his mouth were, “If that is going to be your decision, I want you to stay involved.” That's typical Roger: it made things a lot easier for me, because I didn't want to get away from racing, I didn't want to get away from the team [and he has remained with it ever since, LEFT], and that had been the biggest struggle in my decision. I had felt like I'd be letting the team down, because I knew how much the team wanted a fifth Indy 500 win.
But then again, I just kept weighing all the facts, and had another “You dummy!” moment as I realized if the desire's not there, I'm not going to get the fifth win anyway! Another thing Roger had said soon after I told him my thoughts, was, “Would you be interested in a limited schedule, maybe just the 500s?” And I said, “No, if I make this decision, it's because I don't have the desire to run, period.” Plus, I felt that if I'm not running all the races, I'm no longer current. I'm not 100 percent up on my game, and this whole business for me was about improving all the time. To me, if the desire went away, I quit improving, and then I'd go backward. And I wasn't prepared to do that.