Looking ahead to the IndyCar finale, I think we're lucky in that we did a full-scale simulation, as it were, at Kentucky…up to a point. One-and-a-half-mile oval racing is gladiator racing – wheel-to-wheel, hard racing, and the driver has to focus for 200 laps. He or she cannot ease up at any point, even – as was proven at Kentucky – in pit lane. There's no relief. So I think it's good that we had one of these races before the finale. Had we raced at Baltimore or Sonoma or one of the other road and street courses leading into this race, we might have gotten a false sense of security. The aero package for Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be similar to that for Kentucky, and the fact that IndyCar is allowing us a bit of extra time at the front end of the Vegas weekend and giving us time to digest what we've learned will help all of us.
But, 34 cars out there on a very fast track is kind of like dropping marbles into a funnel – they don't all come out the other side. So, when the overriding priority for Dario is to finish, it does affect the thought process. However, I think if you took the time to actually worry about it, you'd never get onto the racetrack. I think that we just need to concentrate on effectively doing the things we do every day. So yes, there's a worry there, but you can't race the final round any differently than you raced the previous rounds. And, in Dario's case, I bet he'll race with the same enthusiasm as he competed in his very first race.
Having three wing-men this year will help him, although I think he may have a few more out there. I know he'll also have a few “non-wingmen,” too, trying to help Will Power, so it goes both ways. However, I think sometimes these things can be overstated. When you're racing, and you've got a spotter calling shots in your ear and there are people all around you, and you're say, Graham Rahal, then helping Dario is probably not the No. 1 thing on your list. Getting through the day and proving you're the kind of driver who deserves to be out there is the priority in your mind. If Dario is around you, sure, you'll probably cut him some slack and give him a bit more space, but you're not going to do things that affect the outcome of your own race.
The fact is, for the vast majority of the drivers out there, the championship is just a race within a race and that's strictly between Dario and Will. Surrounding them will be a huge number of drivers who have a lot to prove and not much to lose. I think it will make for an exciting day, so I hope ABC will bring out all these wonderful story lines and show how intriguing, fascinating and exciting IndyCar racing can be.
In that championship battle, we know what we're up against, because we all saw Will Power's speed at Kentucky. To be perfectly honest, though, ever since I first watched Will drive a racecar, I've never been surprised at what he can do. Heck, the reason people like you and I became fans of this sport is to watch people like Will drive racecars because it is truly enjoyable watching people with enormous natural ability get more out of a racecar than anyone else can. That's not meant as a slight against anyone who currently drives for us, nor anyone who once drove for us nor anyone who will do so in the future. I mean that I savor the sight of someone with a talent that I wish I had! Watching Will at Kentucky was like that: you're watching someone of great ability taking control and getting the most out of his racecar.
However, even when you have that pace, circumstances will hardly ever allow you to dominate, particularly in oval racing, because of things like yellows and traffic. When you're the leader, you're the first person to encounter the backmarkers flailing away, and they can slow you up. Often you leave an oval race feeling like you didn't get the result you should have gotten and it's almost like it owed you! Consequently, when you see a rival driver dominate like Will did there, the overriding mental issue to work on is patience, because you want to keep the car under you for the moment when you're going to be battling with him. Because sooner or later, you will be – that's how oval racing is.
Well, just a few days to go before the showdown but I don't think we can approach it any differently. If we were 18 points behind rather than in front, we'd be doing everything that Team Penske and Will Power are doing – in other words, whatever it takes to win the championship. They're not looking at an 18-point deficit as a hurdle, I can assure you. When you have a team like that who is capable of mentally preparing themselves as well as they prepare their hardware, that's a team that is capable of winning; a very formidable opponent.
I think we go to every race ignoring the championship positions and mentally pretending that we're dead equal in points when the race begins. That's a policy that has served us very well in the past and that's how we should treat this Las Vegas race.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you in Sin City!