Seriously, you think you’ve got problems until you read a story like that. I hope it was an honest mistake on Jeremy Mayfield’s part, but obviously NASCAR had no option but to ban him.
Anyhow, back to our day. I am disappointed, no question about it. It’s frustrating not having enough budget to run the way you want to run. That’s what it came down to today. I ran two laps this morning because we didn’t want to use up our tire allocation. On a limited mileage program, you get 26 sets of tires and people who aren’t on that program get 36. We sat in the pitlane all freakin’ day, waiting for the wind to die down, but it never really did. The temperature was dropping. Then we went out on a set of used tires just for four laps to warm up the engine, warm up the oil, warm up the gearbox because we’d been sitting still for five hours. Having everything cold limits your speed, so it was necessary.
So we went out to qualify with only six laps of practice for the day under our belts. I was just looking at the charts, and people like Tony Kanaan ran 55 laps of practice, Scott Dixon ran 50, Dario ran 48, and so on. Those guys are out there dialing their cars in to qualifying status, and so we can’t go out with six laps done and expect to be running 223s. I’m telling you, even Rick Mears in his prime couldn’t have turned out a great performance in those circumstances.
We missed on setup again, with tire pressures overshot in the rear, so the car went loose on me at on our second lap. I was going to the right with the weight-jacker, but even so, I was basically just hanging on those last two laps. My speed didn’t fall off – we were pretty consistent – I think I started on a 222, then I think three 221.8s, but the tires were sliding. We weren’t gaining anything, even though I’d been careful with the tires on the warmup laps.
I know it sounds like I’m pissing and moaning about a setup problem and I’m aware everyone has those. What I’m saying is, not having the chance to find that setup problem before
the qualifying run is what screwed us. I mean, the Andretti Green cars’ first runs in practice today were only 221s, but they then have a chance to work on the cars in practice. We don’t have that option, because we’re saving them.
We have three or four sets to run on Sunday now to get ourselves between 12th and 22nd. The weather’s supposed to be better – cooler and no wind – so we’ll see what we can do.
My teammate Mario thought he was going to be fairly safe running a 222.7, so he didn’t run a lot during the day, he ran two or three sets of tires, and re-qualified in seventh. I’ve got to say congratulations to him, he did well, but I’m a race driver with a race driver’s ego, and I feel obliged to point out that we have different circumstances: we’re fighting the same battle but he’s got more weapons at his disposal than me. As a result, he’s got more laps, so he’s got his confidence up and so he’s trimmed the car out. I’m not going to do that with no practice at it: I’m brave, not stupid.
For example, it was using my head rather than my… er… ego that was one of the deciding factors why we didn’t go out again. Someone asked why we didn’t take a second stab at qualifying, but I didn’t think we were going to go fast enough to get in. The difference between wasting two or three sets of tires to be 11th quickest, when we can go tomorrow and end up 12th and therefore on the same row, just didn’t seem worth it. We don’t have that flexibility.
Another justification for not just trimming out and doing a balls-out, brain-suspended run is to avoid hitting the wall. Robert Doornbos – or "Bobby D", as he likes to be known – hit the wall again today, and so I hear his crew have gone to Chicago to get Graham Rahal’s Kansas car. Now I’m hearing that Newman/Haas/Lanigan won’t attempt to run him again until next Saturday, so that’s a good strong car that we won’t have to battle tomorrow.
Reading back over this, I realize it sounds like a huge bitching session. It’s not aimed at anyone. It’s just our circumstances. You just have to realize that I’ve never been good at saying crap like, “Oh well, that’s life.” I’m not built that way. I hated just sitting there not getting any running in, but that’s the program we’re on. I’ve been spoilt in the past: I’m used to getting what I want, getting whatever equipment I want, and being on programs where, whatever’s needed to get it done, it’s done. That isn’t the circumstance here; it just isn’t that way any more.
Anyway, I don’t want to send any fans to bed thinking that my world’s falling in. KV Racing is a strong team, I’m a strong driver, and we’re staying cool and rational and we’ve moved onto Plan B. Together, I think we do have a good shot at sticking that No. 15 GEICO car in 12th on Sunday. Assuming that “Bobby D” doesn’t come out again, our main competition for that last fourth-row slot, I reckon, will be Dan Wheldon’s Panther car, if they can fix it up (he hit the wall today, too) and Justin Wilson’s Dale Coyne car. We’ve been between 11th and 14th in practice sessions when you compare lap times that didn’t have anyone using a draft. So even though Plan A has gone, let’s make the most of Plan B.P.T._____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Paul Tracy’s Indy blog: Friday, May 8. Monster moments on and off trackOkay, I’m sorry I’m late throwing this on the site, but I just got back from trying to get old people addicted to energy drinks. All part of the day’s work.After practice and some media stuff, I got back to my bus this evening to find there was a huge delivery from my Monster Energy sponsors – I reckon there were about 40 cases of drink there. So tonight we’ve been doing the rounds all around the track, giving Monster drinks to all the yellow-shirts who work here. Can’t help but notice a lot of them seem to be in their 60s and 70s, so we’re trying to see if we can get them pumped up. Some of them have got to sit in the cold and rain all night, freezing their butts off, watching over the track, so we’ve got them tanked up on Monster to keep them awake.I suppose tomorrow I need to go and promote my other personal sponsors. Maybe we can go and give the yellow-shirts some wheels from CEC and some Whipple superchargers so they all go home and pimp their Oldsmobiles.Anyway, just wanted you to know why I’m late. Today started off perfectly, because I woke with my lovely wife Patty next to me, which was much needed, because I’d been without her for a week. That kind of a wake-up call helps to make living in a bus in Indianapolis worthwhile.When we went to the gym in the morning, it was dense fog and I thought things looked a bit shaky as far as when we’d be able to get on track. But the track dried up, and I guess we got out there about 11am, and took our first stage of downforce off. There were a lot of cars on track – Andretti Green, Penske and so on were doing some drafting, so the times were jumping up pretty quick. Our priority was trying to find some clear running and working on a qualifying setup.The atmosphere was heavy and thick and the track was very, very green because it rained like crazy at about 3 a.m. (yeah, before you ask, the bus stayed watertight, but I’m too busy to take a bow, ladies and gentlemen). So the track had all its rubber washed off and when we took our first stage of downforce off, and made a few other adjustments, we kind of missed our aero percentage – that means the downforce ratio between front and rear – by about 1.5 percent. We had it set a little bit too far forward for the track and atmospheric conditions…Can you see what’s coming? Yeah, that’s right: a huge tail-out slide coming off of Turn 1 on my first flyer. Not a great start. That could have been an interesting way to promote GEICO car insurance, huh?So we back-pedaled on our setup a bit, and went back to getting it on the safe side of fast. It probably meant we weren’t as quick as we wanted to be, but I just wanted to get my legs back under me and not have the car swinging out sideways on corner exits. After that settling down, we started trimming out some more, and doing some runs completely alone.
The conclusion? The KV Racing No. 15 car isn’t the fastest one, but we’re not bad, either. I wrote the other night about our goal being to qualify on Saturday – in other words, be a top 11 car. I think we’re right on the cusp. Look at the time sheets today and you can see the animals are kinda marching in two by two – two Penskes, two Ganassis, two AGR, and so on. To be blunt, it’s shaken out to being how much money each team is spending.Then the drizzle came on and off, but we got out one more time and we had a pretty strong run with another stage of downforce off. We’ve got one more level to go – low-drag bits and some of your usual tricks for qualifying (no, I can’t reveal them). Our gut feeling is that we can run a 223mph lap alone which we reckon will put us in that top 11 on the first day.We didn’t go out for the last hour today for a couple of reasons. By then, it was dead calm, no wind, the air was thick and it was overcast, and we don’t think it’s anything like what we’re gonna see tomorrow. The forecast is high winds, 17mph at 9am, 25mph-plus in the afternoon. We haven’t had any wind to deal with this week, so we decided to save a couple of sets of tires to do some mock qualifying runs tomorrow in morning practice with more representative winds and track conditions.Our draw for our qualifying run puts us near the end of the day, and I think my teammate Mario [Moraes] is pretty near the start of the day, so who that works out for, I don’t know.Anyway, finishing up early left me a bit of extra time to do some media work. I did a long interview with Jack Arute from Versus TV, all about the 2002 Indy 500. Anyone who knows me even a little bit is aware that it’s one of my favorite and also least favorite subjects. You’ll be shocked to learn that Penske and Helio Castroneves’ stance on it is that it’s all in the past, they’re through with talking about it, and they don’t wish to comment on anything about it. Me? Well, I’ve got to admit I’m playing the ’02 card quite highly – check out the next issue of RACER magazine, for example – and the TV guys today wanted to talk about it in-depth, too. Well, I only did what I was asked, so enjoy the show, guys.Then it was dinner with my other KV Racing teammate, Townsend Bell, who is the master planner of trying to find sponsorship dollars, and then Kevin K called from a different restaurant where he and Jimmy were eating, so I dropped in there too.Tomorrow, the IRL have divided the first practice session in half, according to when your draw is, so the No. 15 GEICO car’s in the second half. Then everyone’s on track together for another hour-long session, and then it’s qualifying. It’s going to be interesting, because up to now, I’ve been starting each day with the car setup the same as how I left it the previous evening. Tomorrow’s different: we’re going in on a fact-finding mission.But hey, KV Racing’s pretty sharp and so am I. We know what we’re doing.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.]Click here for P.T.’s blogs for Tuesday through Thursday
photo by Dan R. Boyd/LAT