Anyway, Ryan stuck around to watch me win in Iowa, so I was real pleased to be there for his win at Loudon, especially because 1) the guy truly earned it, and 2) it really is such a big deal for Dad to have had three drivers in the winner's circle this year. I know there's a protest from Newman/Haas and Ganassi, but the way I look at it is that Ryan was the leader under yellow so, at the green, the second-placed guy cannot cross the start/finish line first, otherwise it's a no-start and everyone has to go around again. Simple as that.
Obviously, I think the race restarting at all was kinda crazy, because I think the job we do is dangerous enough without running slicks on a wet oval. I mean, seriously! But I guess there was some miscommunication, because I know Brian Barnhart would never do anything to jeopardize our safety; that's his big concern and I believe him when he says he was sickened by what happened.
In between Iowa and Loudon, we had the two Canadian races and Mid-Ohio. It's fair to say that when I'm pushing for those last couple of tenths you want for qualifying, I'm still struggling with the back end of the car. In the races, it's not so bad because the pace obviously drops a bit compared with qualifying, but I still feel I'm working harder than I need to be which obviously uses the tires up too quick and the car gets looser. Whenever the back end is not tied down on entry, I simply cannot be as quick because I lose my strong point. When you have to drive according to the car's style instead of your own, you're never going to be as quick as when you're able to drive the car in your own natural way.
Basically, Ryan does a really good job of putting up with a loose car on corner entry, while Mike doesn't really brake heavy so he doesn't ask a lot from the car, whereas I do. I demand a really good back end and when I get that, I'm quick but when I don't, I'm not and we haven't yet found what that “x factor” is that will give me what I need. The annoying thing is that sometimes we do hit it: No one outside the teams themselves got to see the test times from Mid-Ohio, but we were top three, and that was down to me having the car I need. Being able to, for lack of a better phrase, drive the hell out of the entry was all I needed to go quick. But then we went loose again on race weekend. Still, we got a top-10 finish there and in Edmonton, too. Toronto got me a fourth place, but it wasn't pretty and I apologized to Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson after our clash. I just went into Turn 1 too hot to back out when everyone stacked up.
Bearing in mind we've got two new circuits coming up – Baltimore and Motegi road course – I think some people are expecting some change in the order up front. I'm not so sure. A lot of people are going there with setups similar to other tracks: at Baltimore, you'll use your setups from other street courses, and Motegi will need one of your regular road course setups, so I think you're probably going to see a lot of the same guys at the top. However, I'm still going to be really working hard to find that difference in setup between me and Ryan, because he'll have what works for him and I'll have something similar but with a couple of adjustments for corner entry.
But I think if you're looking for the great equalizer…well, you better pray for rain. A wet track means the balance of the car plays a lower percentage of what you're doing. Also, in the wet, you're not really charging in – the pace is a lot slower – so we have to change our style. In the rain, it comes down more to just plain and simple instinct, and learning to control the machinery. We were very quick in the wet in Brazil, so…let's hope.
Obviously, even better would be to have the car we need for all conditions, and when we do get it, having that ability to develop it further when track conditions change. I'd rather be chasing the track than the car.
So I'll try and get back to you before the final couple of oval races. In the meantime, see you in Sonoma, Baltimore and Japan.