Milwaukee, infamously, was a tough one for the Target half of Chip Ganassi Racing. Dario hit the fence, and Scott received a bogus call from Race Control that buried him in the field after we had worked so hard to come back from the rear of the qualifying grid. The difference in qualifying between Dario and Scott was down to their respective setups, which are very different because their drive styles around the Milwaukee Mile are so different. Dario is always better in Turns 1 and 2, while Dixon is better in 3 and 4.
As it happens, Dario took an excellent pole position and Scott ended up qualifying 11th and then starting 21st because of a 10-place grid penalty for an “unapproved” engine change. Dixon's previous engine had run its course so was changed to a fresh one. That fresh one broke at the Iowa test with just 60 miles on it. Once again, it seems that there needs to be some practical tolerance within the framework. No matter whether racing or testing, you pay the penalty.
Let's clearly say that anything could have happened to Scott between Race Control's call and the final lap – he could have been wrong place/wrong time, you never know what might have happened, so you can't definitively say where we'd have finished… but he was fast enough to be at the pointed end of the finishing order. During the race at Milwaukee, you wait each year to watch for the guy who can drop to the bottom of the track coming out of Turn 4 to continually complete a pass by Turn 1. Remember when Mike Mosley did it from the back in 1981? It's been that way since roadsters raced there. Whoever's able to do that will be very fast on race day; and as we're watching, that's what Scott was doing and no one else was able to do it. He had an exceptional car and did what most said can't happen at Milwaukee in a spec series – passed a lot of cars.
The first time that we knew that Race Control was looking at Dixon was when we were issued the drive-through penalty and that was it. None of us realized what we'd done wrong until the TV interview with replay, as it showed that the penalty was for jumping an aborted restart. As president of competition Beaux Barfield explained to us afterward, the starter controls the restart, and he thought that the first place car left early, so it was waved off. They relied on a time clock to find the video which wasn't accurately set prior to the race start. At that point, if you watch the replay, more than one car was out of line, as they were trying not to hit each other.
How are you punished for that? Beaux Barfield explained the technical glitch was that the time clock was off by one full yellow lap, which meant they were reviewing the wrong restart! His absolute honesty was appreciated. He told the media that we'd been gracious in accepting his explanation. We don't race in a court of public opinion, as we're totally reliant upon sound judgment and attention to detail by those who keep us between the lines.
All of us are guilty of making mistakes – I've made many in my career in racing – but it's how you respond to make yourself better that's the crucial thing. Meanwhile, we have to suck it up and accept that the points lost that day are now a memory, they're not magically going to reappear, so it's a case of keeping our heads down and working to earn our way to the very top of the championship table. This deal isn't easy, as there are a lot of quality drivers/teams who will have their share of fortune and the alternative till the final Fontana lap.
So onto the Canadian races and all of us enjoy going to Toronto. The passionate crowd for Honda Indy Toronto is special. It is a real international event. It makes for a very special weekend which has been true since the first one was held back in 1986 won by Mr. Rahal, Sr. With some street events, the configuration changes, but at Toronto, we're still in the same locale with the same track. The Green-Savoree group do a great job of getting the community involved, just as they do at the St. Petersburg event, and it pays off. The Canadian population will be aware that there's a huge race in the heart of their largest city. It's an easy commute from the USA, so if not this year, be sure to see the city plus the race next year.
Expect this weekend's race to be excellent. The crucial factor will be the timing of the pit stops, the first one in particular. For all of us, the primary objective in practice is to find grip in braking zones and on corner exits in relation to fresh tires and used tires. With hard-core street racing, that's the work load. Push-to-pass reappears, so the two straights will get plenty of action from all grid positions.
Finally, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas continue to lead the Grand-Am Rolex Series with their TELMEX BMW. After good races and race craft, the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team and drivers have proven their quality. They keep their heads down and focus on consistency; they never get agitated and throw away strong results on days when they don't have the fastest car. Instead, they make the best of everything, consolidate their position at the head of the table, and then pounce when they get the chance.
Scott and Memo's chance came in Round 7, when they drove with great skill to their first win of the year and in a classic setting – Road America! John Henneck and Ken Brooks gave Tim Keene some great pit options to get them to the front, and winning there continues to be very special. Road America is one of the best overall road tracks in the world and can showcase any series.
Consistency is the key to the Rolex Series with different engine companies, chassis, and world-class drivers – almost a “throwback” to the pure side of motor racing with its variation held to a strict standard by Grand-Am. Our guys should be in it to the finale in Lime Rock and hopefully with a strong position to race for the title once more.
Thanks for reading.
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