So you'll have seen it's been quite an adventure for us in the opening rounds of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season. In between collisions, though, we've been quick, so I'm very pleased with how the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing No. 22 car is going. We certainly got a bunch of air time for our principal sponsor each time, TranSystems at St. Petersburg and Charter at Barber Motorsports Park. But I'd like our circumstances to have been different, I've got to say.
Considering we started fourth and finished second at St. Pete last year, we headed into the first round in a positive frame of mind and with a couple of changes from last year. Unfortunately, we went down the wrong path on Friday, so we were just one or two steps behind for the rest of the weekend. Yeah, I know how often you've heard a racecar driver say something like, “If we could have started the weekend with the setup we had by the end of qualifying, we'd have been much higher.” Well, of course, that's true! But we got ourselves out of a hole during Saturday morning practice and were able to qualify in the Firestone Fast Six. I was really happy with the way the team and the engineers worked through it and deciphered what was going on and we got a good car again. We peaked at the right moment. I'm hoping that same methodology and work ethic among our engineering staff will allow us to make more steps and carry on closing the gap to the big teams throughout the season.
Part of our challenge – everyone's challenge, actually – is that the Firestone tires have changed slightly, so the setups have had to evolve. The softer reds now give the car a really positive, reactive turn-in. For our part at DRR, we are about right on stiffness, I reckon, so I think it's maybe more a damper issue that makes the car a bit of a handful on the harder black tires. When we put the reds on in St. Pete, the car came to life and was good – until we bent it halfway through the race. We had made the fuel last to the same lap as Dario and Will, so that's a good indication of how fast we were. On reds, I dropped off a little bit sooner than Will, and that allowed him to pass me pretty easily. At that point, I was just making sure I preserved the tires as much as I could. I think we had the performance to finish third.
However, now it's all ifs, buts and maybes. The incident that broke the trapezoid in my left wrist was when I clashed with Alex Tagliani in the final restart. We were fighting for fifth at Turn 1 after a restart and he thought he was leaving me room, and he did…but only as far as the apex. Then he slammed the door in my face. I had to drive over the inside curb, and the front of my car pitched up in the air – at which point there isn't a whole lot of braking going on – and I hit the side of his car. Weirdly, I have no idea how I did the damage to my wrist, though, because the doctors say that damaging the trapezoid is pretty rare and normally comes from a compression, like when you're punching something and the index finger knuckle gets pushed back. It's way back in the wrist where it gets squashed.
Anyway, it hurt and although I was able to downshift OK with the left lever, the hardest thing was pressing the radio button. Pulling is fine; it's pushing that really hurts and so it's difficult to make steering corrections, too, because when you get oversteer, you have to kind of push and brace yourself. At Turn 4, about four laps from the end of the race, I tried to pass Servia but with one hand it's not easy to do. Normally it wouldn't be a really big issue but I couldn't hold on to it with one hand and I had to use the escape road.
This is the first time I've damaged the left wrist. I know that because I took out all the carbon braces and supports I've had in the past and made a grisly lineup of them (should have taken a picture, actually) and they were all for the right hand. It's bad enough doing this at any time, but in the first race of the year it really sucks – especially when we have a string of four road courses! Long Beach is going to be hard, especially down at the final hairpin. And you've got to feel sorry for the team, obviously, because in the same race, my teammate Ana Beatriz busted her scaphoid, and I know how painful that is. She's a rookie and that's the last thing she needed, especially when there are such heavy restrictions on testing.