I've got one thing to say: How you like me now?!
Seriously, that was a good, fun race and I got my wheels under me and now it's over. Bummer!
Before I get to the race though, I want to thank Honda Canada and Motegi Racing for giving me the opportunity with KV Racing, and also for GEICO and their efforts at Indy. And my usual lineup of personal sponsors – Kicker Car Audio, CEC, AlpineStars, Oakley and Monster.
Most importantly though, we've all got to thank the Canadian fans for their contributions to Make A Wish. I heard this evening that we raised $112,000 in donations in just two weekends. That sort of gives me goosebumps, to be honest. Win, lose or draw, good day or bad day, what was done for these kids should put a smile on the faces of everyone involved with car No. 15 these last couple of weeks.
To finish up with the run that we had was the icing on the cake. I told you in yesterday's blog that I wasn't planning on hanging around in 15th and I meant it. I made a nice start, got by Mario Moraes and then Taku. He was tough – he didn't want to let me go, that's for sure, then Scheckter, who was very fair about it and then someone else, too. I forget. It was just a case of nailing anyone I could while we're on cold tires.
I'd say the only black mark I had next to my name was the coming together with Rafa Matos on lap 2. I got a big run on him through the chicane and went to his inside and I don't know if he didn't see me, but I had a wheel in there and then backed off when he started coming across because I didn't want him to bend my front suspension. But I still had my front wing alongside his rear wheel and so we touched. It's one of those things; if I decide I'm going through, I'm going through. So if I'm there, you've got to give me some racing room, not pinch me. He could have given me just a little more room and still come out of the corner ahead.
Looking at the car afterward, I saw a big chunk of the endplate missing so maybe that contributed to some of our handling woes on the reds in the race, because we probably lost the equivalent of a turn and a half of front wing. But we kept forging on and I was able to hang with the Viso/Hunter-Reay/Wilson convoy until the last five laps of the first stint when the front tires totally went away and I lost a huge chunk of time. That was unfortunate.
Luckily the black tires were better, and I made that gap back up and I was catching the cars in front of me hand over fist in the second stint. I was able to make up two places in one corner when EJ made a slightly over-optimistic move on Simona. It wasn't a bad attempt, but it's pretty hard to pull it off where he tried it. But I guess I can't criticize optimistic passing maneuvers. Anyway, EJ was just gathering it up when I thought, “Thanks, I'll have some of this” and headed on up the road.
I think Taku, Mario Moraes and Marco got by me on the pit stops, but I was able to get back past them on the track which felt good. I had a lot of good racing going on, particularly Marco and Ryan H-R. The team decided to go to reds for the third stint which had pluses and minuses. The pace was good but it was degrading the front tires again. Tricky one to call, to be fair, but I think the late yellows helped save them a bit.
I'd been strong on the restarts, but the final one was awesome. I was licking my chops to get to Ryan Briscoe, because on the previous one I'd been pretty close to getting a run on him, but once the tires had warmed and he'd settled in, he'd managed to just stretch out of range.
So, with two laps to go, this was the big chance; I made my move, I out-braked him but he seemed pretty desperate to get it back. I underestimated how hard he'd fight, to be honest, considering he's in the championship running. So then we were side by side going for the chicane, and he's on the inside curb, I'm on the outside curb and I launched in the air, and I flew a couple of feet and landed on the grass. That's how Hunter-Reay got through. So I had to go over and see Briscoe afterward to say “Good fight, man!”
It was a pity RH-R beat us to best of the rest, but I had to go for it. I'm not out there to just feather it home. I wanted to race with the big boys and that was my opportunity – better late than never – to give it a go, and show everyone what we'd shown them in practice but not at crunch time in qualifying. And in the end we still got sixth because of Helio's penalty.
I got a massive roar from the crowd when I got out of the car, and that felt good. The IZOD IndyCar Series has had two great race weekends in Canada. I hear Edmonton and the series have agreed to terms for more races here, and I think both the Canadian races were well attended and us drivers gave them entertaining races. I hope the new cowboy in town, Sheriff Randy Bernard, took notice of what Paul Tracy can bring to the party if he's got a full time ride. RACER
checked whether I wanted to go on the record with that last comment, and I said “Hell yeah, send it to him direct!”
Someone – jokingly, I hope – asked me if I felt sorry for Helio. Yeah, sure. He got a race win taken away from him via a judgment call from the chief steward. Be sure and tell him I know how that feels…. I saw on the news that he got out of the car and grabbed an official and tried to shake him. At least I didn't do that when I felt I'd been robbed.
As far as the penalty is concerned, I agree with it. I think all the drivers (except one) agree with it. It was spelled out to us very clearly in the driver meeting how to treat the corner. The natural braking and corner-entry line for Turn 1 is on the outside of the white stripes down the runway. The right side is only to be used for trying to pass someone on the inside. If you go to the right side to keep someone behind, then you're gonna get called on it. Well, Helio drove the whole straight on the other side to keep Will Power behind him. You live your life, you make your choices: Helio chose to block his teammate, he got penalized for it and it cost Penske a win.
Anyway, at least he's got the next race to help him ease the pain. For me, today was potentially the end of the road, and that hurts. I've just now gotten my wheels under me where I feel my driving is strong and I can run with the fast guys. It took a couple of races – Watkins Glen and Toronto – to get back in the groove. I'd have qualified higher in Watkins Glen if I'd had the first part of the season behind me; Toronto wouldn't have been any better because of the car issue. But today, we went from 15th on the grid to finish 6th. And we're all wondering what we'd have done if we could have gotten the car handling right on red tires for qualifying…
We're hopeful we can put a couple more races in this year – I've been talking with a couple of people. There might be something with KV, there might be something with Dreyer & Reinbold. My fingers are crossed, but nothing is confirmed at all.
The boys at Motegi Racing loved the attention we got, Honda's over the moon, and KV was pretty happy, getting all four cars in the top 10. But the money we raised for children who are sick was the most important thing, and I've got you fans to thank for that.
Later. (I hope).P.T.