So did the Thrilla have you on the edge of your seat? Come on, admit it: you couldn’t keep your eyes off me.
This is quite a long blog, because I want to make up for shortchanging you regular readers yesterday [click here
]. But if you were watching the Honda Indy Toronto, I think you’ll agree I didn’t shortchange the fans today.
Some of this isn’t going to be in the right order, because we passed so many cars today I can’t remember all of them. So I’m guessing and hoping that you saw the race and can remember how it looked from outside the cockpit. If you recorded the race on TV and haven't watched it yet, then (a) why not? and (b) I’m about to ruin it for you: We didn’t win.
But some bits of the race stick pretty fresh in my head. I started 15th today and I finished the first lap in eighth. I now know three of them had to pit because of damage, but that’s their fault. The other four got nailed by the Wounded Warrior. Once I’d picked my way through the first lap crap, the guys ahead were pretty far down the road, so I thought okay, I’ll settle in, try to save fuel and wait for the first yellow. I wasn’t losing ground, but I was just staying six or seven seconds behind the seventh place guy. I think it was Justin.
They had kept telling us to not block in the brake zone, so when I saw Hunter-Reay had got a run on me after I got a bad exit off Turn 1, I did the smart thing and let him through, just as it went yellow. And then after the restart he had either pitted or I got by him, I don’t remember but I got a bit further forward.
And then after four or five laps of green, everyone else’s tires started going off and my car was coming into its own. It took a long time for the tires to come in on the – sorry for sounding like a NASCAR driver here – Ontario Honda Dealers WoundedWarriors.ca No.15 KV Racing Technologies car. (Yeah, the tires took even longer than it takes me to write my car’s name.) My car was a long-run car: The longer we ran on the tires, the better and better the car got, and that was the same on reds and blacks. It’s something for the engineers to look at, because that may be a clue for why we had terrible understeer in qualifying: we weren’t generating tire temps quick enough. So we’ve hit on a good race set up, one that looks after the tire, but tuning the car to grip and go when we need it to on a sprint for qualifying is where we’re lacking.
Then later in the race, I made a couple of great moves on Conweasel and Dixon. Justin was a bit easier: his car didn’t seem fast at all. Tag got past him and he started getting away from me because I was saving fuel, and Jimmy said, “Forget fuel, go after him!” which is what you always wanna hear your team boss say. So I got the hammer down, and turned the fastest lap of the race at that point. I think I was the first guy to get into the 62-second laps. And that cut the lead down to about a second just before I pitted.
I got out and then we had one or two racing laps before it went yellow. Dario was in the pits and I came around and I was ahead of him; he wasn’t even out of the pits and then the IRL comes on the radio to say, “Car 10 to go in front of car 15”. Jimmy was like, “You gotta be kidding me! What are you talking about?”
Never before in my career has that happened and they said, “Well, we looked at when the yellow came out, and when it came out Dario was the leader when he crossed the start/finish line in pitlane." Blah blah blah. Jimmy went and argued it. But it was the blend line that was the issue, and they said, “He had to be ahead at the blend line,” and we went back and looked and we beat him to the blend line on the track. Dario was still in the freakin’ pitlane. Even now, I feel confused by it. And royally screwed by it.
That would have changed the whole complexion of our race. Helio was so slow, I think trying to save fuel, or maybe he had grip problems. I don’t know. So when Dario slid by him, he checked out two seconds in one lap! So I thought, “Sh**! I need to get by Helio as well or Dario’s gone for the day.
Helio was decent. He was coasting toward the end of the straightaway, and I outbraked him, he turned in, but left me a bit of room. I was there already, and we bumped together a little bit but it seemed like we’d just rub tires and stuff. No big deal. But then…
I didn’t see the footage until after I did my TV interview, and I don’t think he intentionally took me out, but he jogged to the right and I was fully alongside, so we got hooked together and it shoved both of us in the wall. I guess he was on the marbles, so when he hit the gas, his car got all squirrelly on him and it pointed his nose to the right and took me with him.
I definitely think it was a legitimate place for me to pass – I was fully alongside him – and then he just made a mistake. Like he said in his interviews, he wouldn’t have done that to me deliberately, and not in Canada, so I just have to regard it as a racing incident. People are going to try to make a big deal out of the P.T. vs. Helio thing again, but to be honest, I’m okay with looking on it as a driver making a mistake, and it was just funny coincidence that it was him. Weird experience for him, too, getting jeered by every man, woman and child in the place!
So, let’s look at the positives, finally I properly showed what my potential still is and what I can do. I mean, I proved today that I’m still the same Paul Tracy when the lights go green. I’m a badass racing mofo, and anyone who saw my quiet race at Watkins Glen just got a reminder in Toronto that I’ve still got the fire. No matter where I start, I’m gonna make some moves.
The other positive was the team’s work on the car. No question we had a good car in the race and I’ve got to thank Jimmy and Kevin’s boys for that. It was just great on the brakes. You think after a bunch of hard stops outbraking people while carrying a full fuel load that the brakes would be screwed, but today was not a problem. We had a brake master-cylinder issue yesterday, and whatever was done overnight, it was cured for the race. And the car was also real stable under braking, even when I was going off-line to pass people.
Now we have to figure out the qualifying situation so I can start near the front of races, and not have to run so many risks passing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to pass a champion driver like Dixon in a strong car like Ganassi’s. But I really want to be ahead of him from the get-go, you know?
I think we gave the crowd what they wanted in terms of performance, I think Andretti Green Promotions and Ontario Honda got good coverage, I know WoundedWarriors.ca got a bunch of coverage, which is important because it’s good cause. I just hope that even though we didn’t get a podium, we proved what I can bring to the table and what kind of fanbase and drama I can add to the IndyCar Series. I don’t understand how you can have two Canadian races in the series and not have Canadian drivers full-time. And although Tag and I have had our issues, I’ll be the first to admit he drove a great race – in fact, he did a great job all weekend. (For Alex's heartache story, [click here
) So why we aren’t full-time drivers is something I just don’t understand.
We should have been second, definitely, and if it hadn’t been for the problem with Race Control and I’d been ahead of Dario, we could have won. Think I’m blowing hot air? Uh-uh. We were so fantastic on the brakes, any move he made on me would have been a 50/50, and he’s got a championship to think about…
I’m happy for Dario that he got the win: he’s a good guy, but I hope people in the series realize I’m an asset they need, too.
Now I’m even more fired up for Edmonton. The team reckon they had a really fast car there last year for Will Power and Oriol Servia: they both qualified top six, and then Power had a steering-box issue and I think Servia had contact with someone late in the race. So Jimmy and [KV Racing team manager] Mark Johnson reckon their cars are better on the airport course than on a pure street course. I’ve got to hope.
So KV came looking for a trophy and after the crew worked their tails off on the car overnight and after warm-up, they’ve been sent home with a car with four bent corners and a lot of bodywork damage. But we also all walk away with our heads held high: both KV cars ran in the top five, one of them was a contender for the win.
We’ll keep on pressuring contacts and potential sponsors, because I don’t want Edmonton to be the end of the season for us. But if running another race this year takes away from potential funding for next year, then I’d rather focus on 2010. If someone says, “Here’s the money to race at Kentucky this year,” I’m gonna say, “How about we use that to run Long Beach next year?” But next year, we really want it to be a full season. I’m desperate to achieve that.
I’ll get back to you next week and catch you up. For now, thanks for all the responses to these blogs. I recognize the support from the people who couldn’t make it to the race. Those who did – well, you’ve shown your support already. As the smiling dancer found out.Thrilla from West Hilla (he sure ain't vanilla)