are people gonna start taking us seriously? Those were full race setups that KV Racing was running today, but Mario Moraes was second, and Townsend Bell was third. Moraes did a half race distance. So now do you believe me when I said we could win this thing?
I was watching on the internet, and I’m pleased to see Mario also seems to be taking a more normal line – he was traveling in a train of about six cars with Matos, Helio, Dixon, Dario and Kanaan. Yesterday he was quickest: and apparently the front was working really good, but he had struggled with understeer in traffic and tire degradation at the end of the run. So for today, they made some changes and from what we can see, they’ve gotten a pretty good handle on that.
So it’s a real shame his No. 5 crew has some work to do tonight because the car got hit by one of the bricks on the start/finish line. That’s not only weird and sloppy, it’s also dangerous. And anyone who pretends it isn’t will have noticed that the IRL brought the session to an end early.
Townsend was running race downforce too, but I guess his hardest job is tomorrow, because I don’t think he’s tried it trimmed out for qualifying yet, so I guess he’ll be doing that early tomorrow to get practice for his flying laps.
I see one of his rivals tomorrow is Tomas Scheckter, who’s got his deal at last, with Dale Coyne. He’s been shopping that around the garages for five days, and I don’t know how much money he’s brought but everybody was clamoring for whatever he had. They’re so money-hungry because they have to be. I’m sure he’ll make it into the field; he’s plenty experienced and Justin’s proved the Coyne cars are fast.
The other guy I wanted to mention was Nelson Philippe. Apparently that shunt he had last week really spooked him. When he got back in the car this week, he said it was handling weird. Trust me, it’s not that: it’s that his head isn’t back on straight. That will happen at this place. You get the car’s handling wrong or have a wreck, and after that you start feeling weird things going on that aren’t really there. Back in 2002, Team Green’s cars – Michael [Andretti], Dario and myself – qualified so bad, somewhere between 25th and 30th, because the handling was bad. Thankfully, we had the luxury of going away and getting our heads straight for a few days, and in the meantime, the team had sorted out the problems before the race. But Nelson’s still at the scared stage and ended up last today: he needs to make the breakthrough moment pretty soon, or he’s gonna miss the show.
Last night Patty and I went out to dinner and met with a couple of people. Today’s the last time I see her until next Thursday, which is sad. Then today I went and had a bike ride but I cut it short as I’ve got a bit of a sinus infection going on, so I had to go to the doctors. He’s given me some antibiotics to take for four days to clear that up. I’m not the first driver to point out that when the adrenaline drops for a week, you do start picking up little things like colds, and sinus issues. I don’t know if there’s a true medical explanation, but there’s plenty of evidence.
Another remedy, apart from antibiotics, is motivation, and I can tell you here and now, I have it 110 percent. KV Racing’s doing a great job, the cars are fast and I couldn’t be more pumped up. The cherry on top would have been if I had had the budget to buy the full program so I could have been out there with the GEICO car doing some running myself. But hey, I can’t change that now. I have enough race experience that I feel I can jump straight into it in nine days’ time. We did some drafting practice in the week I was running, so I have full confidence in the team and I think I’ve got a really good shot at winning. Did Penske or Ganassi think that KV Racing was going to threaten them in their little playpen? I don’t think so.
As for pitstops, I’m certain KV Racing’s up to Penske/Ganassi standard. I’ve got a pretty good group of guys who were doing pit stops on my car at Forsythe in the past, and others who were on Jimmy’s car when he drove for Rahal. I’ve seen these guys around the paddock for years: they’re not just hired guns. There’ll be no problem there.
I don’t have any questions over strategy, either. Jimmy’s pretty sharp, and I’m pretty good at running the race and having the long-term goal in my head. (Hey, stop snickering: I mean it). We’re starting toward the front, and don’t have to go off strategy and roll the dice straight away. A lot of the second-weekend qualifiers are going to be mixing it up and will go off strategy, staying out at the first yellow hoping to get lucky, or dive into the pits if it’s a real early yellow. We don’t have to gamble. We can just do what the leaders do, because we’re gonna be one of them.
Right, I’m heading off for McCarran to fly back to Indy again. Got some media duties this weekend and watch Townsend qualifying. Looks like he’s gonna make it worth my four-hour leg-crushing ride on Southwest.P.T.For previous P.T. blogs, check under "COLUMNS" for the PAUL TRACY heading. [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.]