Hello. It’s been a while, and I’m just about to head out the door to the airport to fly to Edmonton, to do some promotions for WoundedWarriors.ca.
Since Toronto, I took a couple of days to go to the lake with Patty and the kids and my son C.J. It’s been crazy hot here in Vegas, but also windy, so I’ve been training mostly indoors in the gym, so haven’t been on the bike that much.
Hanging out with the youngsters brings it home what an unbelievable nightmare the Surtees family must be going through right now. That accident that killed Henry Surtees last Sunday was such a set of freak circumstances that it increases the heartbreak, if that’s possible. For John Surtees, a legend, who lived through the most dangerous era of racing, who was a world champion on four wheels and was also one of the greatest bike racers ever – and got through all that virtually unscathed – to have a young son at just the beginning of his career killed is just a terrible, terrible shame. I feel so bad for him. As a father, you always subconsciously and consciously expect your sons and daughters to outlive you. I can’t comprehend what John’s going through. R.I.P. Henry, and all my sympathy to those who he left behind.
Just thinking about what happened at Brands Hatch last weekend makes a lot of what I’ve been doing these last couple of weeks sound pretty irrelevant, but this is a blog and you’re here now, so you might as well carry on reading it. It’s been a fairly quiet time, and I’ve had an opportunity to fart around with the Lincoln some more. C.J. and I have been putting more sound-deadening in it and we’ve pretty much done the whole car. All the speaker wires have been put back in, and they’re running under the carpet now, all hidden. I’ve had parts of it reupholstered because it was looking a bit crappy and the carpet itself is new because it was nasty. Now it looks tight, the way I like my cars.
By the time I get back from Edmonton next week, it should be pretty close to being done, which is good because I’ve got plenty of time off for car shows and stuff like that, I’m sorry to say. This weekend’s race is pretty much the end of the road for me, as of right now, with six races left in the IndyCar championship. I’d love to do Motegi, as well asMid-Ohio and Sonoma, given the chance, but I don’t have anything firmed up, at all.
So my plan is to fly from Edmonton to Phoenix and pick up my motorhome at my buddy Chuck’s house, which is where we left it after the infamous roadtrip to pick up the Lincoln. Then Patty and I are making a trip with Chuck to Sturgis Bike Week up in South Dakota with a couple of Ron Simms Harley-Davidsons and the ratrod. But hey, I can change my plans on the fly, so if someone wants to offer me a car for any of the remaining IndyCar races, you know where to get me. I don’t like being on the outside looking in.
A buddy of mine borrowed the jeep, and he’s loaned me his ex-cop car, with the lights and the whole kit on. It’s an all- black Ford Crown Vic Interceptor, and it’s pretty amazing the reaction you get when you drive along. People instantly panic, and almost have an accident as they rush to put their seatbelts on, and pull over too much. They just generally attract attention to themselves in the worst ways possible if they were near a real cop. It’s kinda funny, but you get to see what cops must have to go through every single day.
Jimmy Vasser has been on vacation on his boat in B.C. this week, and he kept losing phone reception, so I haven’t really spoken to him, but I spoke with [KV’s team manager] Mark Johnson about the engineers’ plans for the car setup in Edmonton.
Talking of phone calls, I was on SpeedFreaks on Sunday night, and there was some crazy-ass conversation about me and Kenny Sargent and shower scenes and soap and…It all got a bit spooky, to be honest. Anyway Crash Gladys and Bill Wood kept saying how much they were enjoying the blog, so let’s return the favor and point you toward www.speedfreaks.tv where you can hit a button and listen to last week’s show.
Talking of phone calls that DIDN’T happen, I haven’t had any invitations from IMS to replace Joie Chitwood. But I reckon I could do a pretty good job. I think my first duty would be to build up the profile of the series, and the way to do that and draw fans in is to show the personalities of the drivers. They’ve got to develop the stars in the series, and bring out their true personalities. A lot of drivers have their guard up and can’t speak their minds because they’re afraid of what their sponsors are gonna think, or what their team owners will think. But the way you build household names is to let people be themselves, so that would be one thing I would try to achieve – but it’s hard, because a lot of people have blinds drawn on their true personalities compared with how they are at the race track.
I know RACER
has done a lot of speaking to people around the series about what they want to change – seems like more power and returning to Cleveland and Road America are the hottest issues that a lot of people agree on. Let’s take the first one of those: yeah, I wanna see 900hp, of course… but it’s gonna cost more.
That’s the big problem. If you go to Honda and say, “Hey, we want 250 more horsepower,” then they’re going to have to bump up the cost of the engine lease, not just because of research and development but the need for rebuilds. Someone has to pay. Honda don’t typically have reliability issues with the current motor, but if they’re then pumping 900, you���ll have more parts needing changing more often. Honda have got to keep their balance sheets in control, just like teams have to. Some of the teams can barely afford the leases and rebuilds already.
Regarding adding the circuits, I’m all for it. Cleveland is obviously a great venue – a great track for racing and for spectating. Elkhart Lake – it’s obviously a great circuit, but I don’t think the current IndyCars would look so spectacular round there. I mean, we had 750hp Champ Cars there in 2007, and the quickest ALMS cars weren’t that far from the making the back of our grid. One and a half seconds? Something like that. And the other thing to consider is, I don’t remember great crowd figures there over the last five years either. So let’s go back to Elkhart if the marketing is done right beforehand, and if we can put on a good show.
Going back to the SpeedFreaks deal, David Malsher at RACER
asked me afterward if I’d be interested in being a TV commentator for IndyCars when I retire from racing. I think I brushed him off with a, “Don’t talk about retirement,” kind of comment (though maybe I wasn’t so polite). I’m not so sure about that… But a TV show? Yeah, I could see that.
Just last night, I got a message from an old friend of mine by the name of Willy T. Ribbs. So I need to talk to him and see what he’s got going on. He was another guy who was never afraid to say what he felt and I’ve always admired him and looked up to him. He’s a true-blue guy, and has always supported me.
Tommy Kendall and I have talked about a TV show for the last couple of years, and we’re starting to explore the possibilities. Whatever, if it’s going to be a reality show, it needs to be REALITY: none of this scripted crap where people pretend not to know the cameras that are following them. I’m thinking if a TV show helps me get back into racing full-time, then it’s good.
This is not a pension plan: this is an idea of working with my racing sponsors and how best to help my sponsors and maximize their investment. Blogs, Twitters, TV exposures – that is the way to support the people who support you. A driver shouldn’t be all take, take, take: sponsors want a return for the money, and offering them something above and beyond being on the car is the way forward. Just offering them a logo sticker on the side of a racecar doesn’t cut it any more.
So let’s focus on this weekend. My Edmonton ambitions are simple: we want at least a top-five finish. We were fourth there last year, and I’m more familiar with the car now. Goal number one though has to be to qualify better. The last three road courses I’ve been on – Edmonton ’08, Watkins Glen and Toronto this year – I’ve started 15th every time, for various reasons.
So there’s a lot of room for improvement there. Every time, I’ve moved into the top 10 in the opening laps and so that’s meant we’ve not needed to go off-strategy and throw it open to luck. We’ve genuinely worked our way through the field to get there. So starting in the top 10 has to be a boost, because it will get us up at the front sooner. That’s my aim.
Correction: getting to the front a.s.a.p. is always my aim.
Back with you on Friday, kids.
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