After all that practice and all those qualifying runs last week, I guess the fans are struggling to cope with going completely cold turkey for three days. Well, I can tell you it’s a weird feeling for the drivers too, because the adrenaline dies away for a few days, and then you’ve got to go get fired up again… and still
it’s not the race. It feels like a test. For some of them, they’re feeling the pressure trying to get a qualifying setup, for others it’s a long, long test, trying out different things for race setups. And in my case, with the restricted program, it’s killing time and watching, as the No. 15 GEICO car sits idle. I’m going back this weekend just to be a spectator. Not my favorite role.
I’ve enjoyed the last three days, though, because it’s a chance to interact with the kids, see the dogs again and being with Patty in our home instead of a damn bus. I left Indy on Monday morning and got back home to Vegas mid-morning Pacific time. I immediately went to the gym, and then messed around the house a bit.
Then Tuesday I had a nice long bike ride – my favorite part of keeping fit – with a couple of buddies. And then our PR man Kevin Diamond had seven interviews lined up for me, for radio and print media over the course of the day. In between that, I was talking to a couple of potential sponsors we’re trying to finalize – one of them specifically for Indy, one of them to sponsor me in more races. Things seem to be progressing pretty well there. Then I went and picked the kids up from school.
Today, was pretty much the same, but I also went to the chiropractor and got an adjustment – had my back cracked, the joints cracked, and just basically limbered up. It was necessary, not just because I’d been out of the cockpit for nine months and then had an intense week: I spend so much time bike-riding, and an increasing amount of time in the gym, so I need straightening out on a regular basis. Normally, I try and get adjusted once a week or once every 10 days, but because of the schedule before and during the month so far, I probably hadn’t been for a month. Trust me, I was crackling like a V12 Ferrari on the overrun.
So today I got another adjustment right after the gym-and-bike-ride routine, and then had some phone calls with Jimmy, followed by a sponsor meeting. Things progressed even further. In particular these sponsors are looking at the Canadian races, but again, no money has changed hands yet, so I’m trying not to get too excited. As I’ve discovered in the past, nothing’s certain until it’s fact, so you have to reach a compromise in your approach. You have to prove to these people how fired-up you are, how strong your determination and attitude are, but inside you’re holding yourself down. When you haven’t got a contract or a deal signed, you can’t let thinking about it dominate the rest of your life until there’s really something to go on. Otherwise you’re just riding for a fall.
Oh yeah, remember my last column I said I was confident I could win Indy? Well guess what: during the conversations I’ve been having with Jimmy, he offered me a nice little incentive. Well I guess, that’s the wrong word: I don’t need an incentive to win the biggest race in the world – duh! I mean a reward. Whatever the state of play with these new sponsor talks, if I win Indy, Jimmy has promised to run me at Milwaukee. Now that’s
cool! I won there four times in my career, I love the flat ovals because a good road course driver can really make the difference there, and I know KV Racing has a good setup for there with the Dallara: Will Power took fourth on the grid for KV last year.
Right now, I’m sitting on the couch with my lap top tapping this stuff out, while also watching some crap on TV – “The World’s Craziest Car Crashes” or something. I’ve been going to bed early, like 9pm, so that my body stays on Indy time, because I was going to bed about midnight there. Tomorrow, I’ll train again, then train again Friday and then fly back to Indy in the afternoon to see how Townsend Bell, my other KV Racing teammate is getting on.
Apparently the weather’s not looking too good, which is a bummer, because we wanted to get some long runs in with Townsend for the sake of the team. Obviously it’s partly for his sake too, because he hasn’t been out there yet, but we also need him to practice various setups for me and Mario [Moraes, my other teammate]. We need race simulation stuff. He’s got 26 sets of tires sitting there – he’s on the same restricted program as me – and not that much practice time to use them if it rains tomorrow. He was going to do a bunch of the legwork for us and then the team would be able to come to a conclusion on the best starting setup for my No. 15 GEICO car. Plus, he needs to do some practice in qualifying trim just for his own sake. He’s gonna be a busy boy.
Apart from going to the gym and doing some more biking (I have one of my bikes on the bus) I’m gonna call by the KV Racing shop each day, and while I’m there we’ll fiddle around with the No. 15’s seat and seating position. You want a reasonable amount of comfort for a race that lasts well over three hours. Obviously you don’t notice it while you’ve got the hammer down, but when you get long full-course yellow periods to scrape cars and drivers off the wall, you start noticing things like the pedals not being quite right, or that your ass is going numb, and so on.
Patty is flying in on Thursday of race week and my son C.J. flies in from Canada on Friday. Don’t know about my mum: I talked to her today, and might do so again tonight. She’s not sure.
Although it’s been great to be with my family these past three days, I really am starting to get pumped for the race. It’s been good mixing with the drivers again, like Dario and Scott Dixon, even if you don’t get a chance to speak to them for long. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised to get well wishes from fans. I really appreciate that. I didn’t think I’d get that – I thought everyone who loves Indy enough to be going to the track for practice and qualifying would still be pissed at me for my old “crapwagon” comments and “IRL sucks” routine. But 99 percent of them have been great. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Hey Paul, great to have you back, you’re gonna win your second Indy 500!” There have been a couple of jackasses up in the stands flicking me off, but these bravehearts only do it from a distance – never up close. Ain’t that always the way, huh?
I was about to send this, and I noticed in the email from Malsher at RACER
that he wants me to say in this blog who’s my pick for fastest qualifier on Saturday. Well I don’t know, and I very nearly don’t care. However, let’s go for Townsend in the third KV car. I’m not saying that out of loyalty. I’m just going on the fact that he’s got the same setup as me, and he’s pretty quick 'round Indy: I’ve just checked on Wikipedia and apparently he qualifed 12th and finished 10th there last year. Next quickest will probably be E.J. Viso for HVM.
Wait: I’ve just checked the list of people who haven’t qualified yet, and I’m changing my prediction. I reckon Doornbos – the self-titled “Bobby D” – will be quickest, so long as he doesn’t smash a third car against the wall and put Newman/Haas/Lanigan out of business.
I’ll give you an update on Townsend’s progress on Friday. Remember: if you care about my career (and why the hell would you have been reading this for the last 10 minutes if you didn’t?) what KV Racing and Townsend achieve this week could have a real bearing on what we do with the No. 15 GEICO car next week.
Think you can do without me for a couple of days? Ha – we’ll see…P.T.[Subscribe to RACER before May 26 in order to start your subscription with the July issue, which includes an exclusive, no-holds-barred Paul Tracy interview. - Ed.]