Holy crap: That was a disaster almost from the get-go. I’m pretty sure I’ve never worked so hard to finish six laps down. That No. 14 car was so out of whack, looser than any racecar I’ve driven. Yesterday we changed everything on the car and today it went back to handling like a fish in acid.
I feel so, so bad for A.J. Foyt. Sure, it was a crappy race for me, and the car was horrible to handle, but it was still worse for him. A.J.’s name was on the race, his sponsor ABC Supply are local and so we had 800 guests there, and we just looked like jackasses. The setup was just no good: we had way too much front aero on the car. We had to take six turns of front wing out in the first stop! It was OK for the first six to eight laps, and I think I’d jumped up to 12th on that opening lap, so I thought, “OK, we’ll hang onto this for a while, steer clear of trouble up ahead, and then start charging again.”
But then the car went looser and looser, and I had no adjustment. The weight-jacker they have in the car only works to the left, to take away understeer. Huh! If only. So there was nothing I could do, and I was full stiff on the front bar already, and so I had no options left to play with and we sank like a rock. So it got worse and worse, and I was just hanging on to bring the car home, trying not to do a Mike Conway. I was just praying for yellows so we could pit and make some adjustments, but there were hardly any, until Con-weasel did his usual thing.
By the time we got to the first stop, and took that front wing out, we were already three or four laps down, so thereafter we were just keeping out of people’s way. Remember yesterday’s blog I said that our last two laps were good, and that we’d got the car to where we should have been at the start of the day? Well, I look at today’s race as us paying the price for being a day behind. We hadn’t done any running on heavy fuel or in traffic pre-race, not when the car was handling properly, anyway.
A.J. came on the radio about five times to apologize for the car they’d given me, and I just said, “Look, let’s get it to the finish and hopefully there’ll be wrecks or whatever, and we’ll get 12th or something.” But there weren’t.
If I’m going to be hard on myself, I’d say my contribution to the problem was not knowing enough about these cars. That was only my third race in a Dallara-Honda, so I’m going by what the team gives me, and doing what they want me to do. I don’t have a lot of input. Maybe we didn’t change the car enough from qualifying: we lifted the ride heights, and put a stiffer front end on it. But whatever it was, it wasn’t enough.
By the end of the race, we’d got it to where the car was okay if I was running on my own, but if I got close to any other cars, it was going loose again. I don’t think we had a soft enough rear spring, and I think we had too much front wing in it.
I can’t recall the last time I was even lapped once at the Milwaukee Mile. I’ve won there four times, led 700 and something laps there. But today, it started out well and then unraveled in a hurry.
So the big decision now is, do we keep going? I told A.J. that I’d think about it overnight, but I think I’ll probably give it a shot. For one thing, next weekend’s race is Texas, so it’s his home track. And I also need to keep in good race shape for the two Canadian races with KV Racing. I don’t want the bumps and bruises and sore neck that goes with not driving for ages and then getting back in a car months later, straight off the couch. I want to be in race shape, and the only way to be in race shape is by driving.
On the other hand, I don’t want to do what we just did. Texas Motor Speedway is not somewhere that you want a bad-handling car. To be fair to the team, they said that in the past, Milwaukee had been one of their worst tracks, and TMS is one of their better ones, but I think I’m gonna check those numbers myself… No, seriously, I think they’ve won there a couple of times, and they’ve always qualified well there.
So I’ll talk it through with Patty, my wife. But as I’m writing this in the airport, waiting to get on the plane, I’m leaning toward carrying on with A.J. I seriously want to learn more about these cars so I can show my best game again.
The good thing about my day? Knowing the guy delivering my Lincoln will have it in Vegas for me by the time my plane lands, so I can pull it off the trailer and drive home to see my wife. Hope she’s impressed with it.
I’ll get back to you next week, probably. And thanks for the feedback on these blogs. Appreciate it (yeah, even the haters).
[To read Paul Tracy's back catalog of blogs, go to the Columns menu, and drag down to "Paul Tracy", obviously. - Ed.]