I’m sitting here watching the F1 race from Germany, and Mark Webber’s just hit two cars in the first 200 yards, cut Lewis Hamilton’s tire, he’s gonna get a drive-through penalty, and he’s gonna smoke everybody and win. Pretty amazing.
I’d forgotten how narrow Nurburgring is: and it looks really run down, and not very German. Oh, and there’s Bourdais going back to the pits. I’m not surprised he’s got the boot. The guy was a misery even when he had the best car and was winning everything, so I guess he’s been pretty unbearable this last 18 months. He’s a great driver, but I bet his attitude didn’t exactly encourage the team to solve his problems.
I’m in two minds about this. I’m dreaming of the day that I’m able to give Bourdais the gears again, but like I've said in previous blogs, I will be mightily pissed if he walks back into a deal when I’ve been working my tail off doing promotions, and helping to sell tickets for race organizers, and don’t get a ride.
I notice a couple of the reader’s comments at the end of my last blog said I should have just settled for bringing home a podium finish to KV Racing in Toronto, that I should have forgotten about Dario so I could take my time to pass Helio. I’m guessing that you haven’t seen me race before. Unless I’m ordered to by the team, I will never settle for a definite podium if I think there is a potential win. For better or worse, I’m not wired that way. Jimmy told me to play it smart, and I felt I did. If Helio hadn’t have presented me with a good opportunity, by backing off early on the straight, I probably couldn’t have made it happen at that corner on that lap. But he did back off early – I guess for saving fuel – and even gave me room on the right-hander. I just took advantage of that. Now I’ve seen it several times on the overhead cameras, I’d say the crash only occurred because for whatever reason, he didn’t stay off line for the second part of the corner, and came back onto the racing line – which was already occupied by me.
Anyway, I got back to Vegas on Monday, and I guess I’m still on East Coast time, because I’ve been up at 4am the last few days. But that actually suits me fine, because it means I’m on the bike by 5… It’s seriously hot here – 112degF by the afternoons – so it’s good to get the cycling in before that. And it means I can get back in time to go to the gym with Patty, around 8am. I’m really focusing on upper body strength because it’s massively important for Edmonton, especially if there are no yellows (we hope.)
The Missing Linc has gone in to Action Motorsports Las Vegas to have a giant Kicker stereo fitted. (Kicker Audio is one of my personal sponsors.) It’s been there while I was in Toronto, so I went over to check it yesterday and the interior’s all ripped out in preparation, because they’re sound-deadening the whole car; don’t want any rattles from the amount of power we’re gonna be pumping through the speakers in full surround sound! The Action Motorsports LV crew is also in the process of building in a center console, and it should all be ready in time for Kicker to use it as a show car for SEMA and the Consumer Electronics Show in a few months.
People are still asking me about the car and one or two have even asked to buy it. But clap-door Lincolns are good cars, and a collector’s item, and I don’t see a reason to ever sell it. And it was so cheap, too. It’s not like having a $250k Ferrari which will devalue quite rapidly. This will hold its value or get better, and it gets just as much attention as a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
We reworked the inner fender wells, because when we fitted the 22” wheels on it, the tires were crashing into the wells. But a buddy of mine had an air-hammer and we did some manipulating to make sure it could slam on the deck. Now, even with it lowered down so it’s almost touching the ground, the wheels will still roll in the wells. You can’t drive it that low, obviously, but if you bring it up two inches, you can drive it in a straight line. Raise it up a bit more and then you can turn the wheels. I reckon hydraulics are a bit of a nightmare, so it’s just got airbags to raise and lower it; no bouncing in this baby.
While I work on the car, it gives me a lot of time to think; racing is starting to dominate my thoughts again like it did at the start of my career. And what I’m thinking about is the future, not the past. My first priority is trying to do a whole season next year. My second is for it to be with KV Racing… but it all depends on financing and whether we can generate sponsorship. My personal sponsors – Monster, Kicker, Whipple Superchargers, CEC Wheels and Oakley – are sticking with me, I hope, wherever I go. But given a full-season program, I’m confident that KV Racing can regularly challenge for wins in 2010. They have the equipment, the personnel and the team spirit to do it.
If Jimmy had to say “No,” there are other potential openings, other shifts in the driver market. For example, there’s a big question mark over possible vacancies in Andretti Green Racing. People have asked whether I would get on with Michael Andretti, and I realize we had our problems back in the ’90s, but we got on fine when we were teammates at Team Green/Andretti-Green in 2001-’02. And I did everything asked of me at Toronto, and that was an Andretti Green Promotions race, and that’s all you can do – act in a professional way. I mean, I’m older now, I’m a different person than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I like Tony Kanaan, and I don’t really know Marco, but I’d be happy to help with setups and stuff like that. From green light to checkered flag on raceday, I’m a selfish s.o.b., but through the rest of the weekend I can be a team player, share data and feedback, and so on.
The stupid thing is, the Indy Racing League are gonna need me to help sell tickets for the Canadian races next year, but to not drive on a road course for a year (like I did from Edmonton 2008 to Watkins Glen ’09) won’t help my cause – or the spectator numbers, because the Canadian fans will see it as a PR stunt. It’s only gonna get harder and harder to parachute me in for two races and expect me to do well. I’m 40: I can’t just take a year off and expect to then turn up and chase down Penske and Ganassi cars. It’s one thing doing Indy for a whole month; you can do a decent job there because you’ve got a lot of time to dedicate to getting the car how you want it, and getting yourself race-sharp.
But I won’t hide from it: at Watkins Glen, I was nowhere near my real potential. It’s a difficult track to learn, I hadn’t been on a road course for a year so I was getting used to the Dallara-Honda package and its handling and engine characteristics (see previous column) all over again, and I didn’t even get the chance to do the test at the Glen when my teammate Mario Moraes did. Jimmy told me, “Just use Watkins Glen to blow the rust off, because Toronto and Edmonton are where we want you fast: the Glen is a bonus.” So I did, and he was right: we looked good in Toronto. But like I say, next time will be harder without a full season. I’m just being realistic.
Toronto was obviously better, but still not consistent: quick one practice, slow the next, P1 on Saturday morning, not set up right for qualifying, then in the race we got it all right. If we can have a more consistent weekend in Edmonton, then we can take advantage of the fact that I know the track well, so I think we stand a good chance of having a great run there.
Being an airport course, it’s like Cleveland… Except it’s Cleveland-plus-plus. There’s more left-rights in quick succession. At Cleveland you go down a straight and have a left-right, straight, then left-right, and so on. At Edmonton you go right at Turn 1, then flat-out chicane, then a right, a left, a left, right, right, right… There’s no straight in the first half of the lap, you don’t take a chance to get a breath – It’s great. You think, “%#&!, this is fast!” in the first practice session, but that’s nothing, because when the surface rubbers in after a few sessions, it becomes really
And it’s a great venue for spectators. Out in the paddock and surrounding area, there’s a bunch of stuff to see, and there’s lots of space. I hate real cramped paddocks. And the circuit itself is great for spectators: even at the cheapest seats, you can see almost the whole track. The great thing about the two Canadian races is that they have completely different atmospheres. Toronto you naturally pick up the big city feel, but Edmonton is more a blue-collar crowd, massively enthusiastic, great fans that are passionate about open-wheel racing.
Obviously we’ll be carrying the WoundedWarriors.ca allegiance again and the team is working with Edmonton Honda Dealers right now, so there will be a bunch of promotions. Not as many as Toronto: that was manic – way more physically and mentally demanding than the race. But it was good to feel wanted by the public and the media.
After Edmonton, I got nothing for now, and that depresses me. It also makes me wonder if the IRL has a problem on its hands for the remainder of ’09, too. Helio taking me out means he’s probably taken himself out of the running for the championship. So now you’ve got three decent but low-profile guys fighting for the title. I like Dario, and I like Scott, and although I don’t really know Briscoe, he’s obviously quick, gets a car to the finish and he comes across as a decent guy on TV. But the problem is, they all get along, so where’s the edge? What’s the big draw for spectators and TV viewers?
Well, you can see what I’m building to, huh? I need IndyCar, IndyCar needs a Thrilla.P.T.
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