I just got home to Scottsdale having driven my bus with my buddy Chuck through the last 24 hours after the Indy 500 banquet. Had a lot of time to think through a two-and-a-half week stint at the Speedway, full of ups and downs.
I'm just sorry the final section of the story was one of the downbeat parts. I've got to say, it was good working with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Robbie Buhl and Dennis Reinbold are good guys to go racing with, and it was great to represent WIX Filters, and I'm proud that Motegi Racing, ARMA Energy and Rockford Fosgate Audio are part of my continued work through 2011 with Dragon Racing.
You guys read through my previous blogs and after the qualifying run we had, we went into the race pretty pumped. My engineer Yves Touron is a switched-on dude, and we had a good working relationship, based on mutual respect. I hope we can work together again some time. One curveball that was thrown everyone's way was the 90-degree heat on race day; some teams dealt with it, others didn't. It was just way different from what we'd had all month, even on Carb Day, just 48 hours earlier. But we were all in the same boat; can't whine about that.
We had a problem on top of that. Through the previous two weeks, we had tires go out of balance slightly, but we never ran a full stint on tires – or not in one continuous run. We'd start to pick up a small vibration, but never really thought too much about it because it never became a big issue and not one that we'd think would get worse and worse. But on race day, sure enough, it happened again. In Justin Wilson's case, the vibration got so bad the tire went down to its cords and popped his left front. Yeah…a tire that has hardly any load on a fairly flat oval. Davey Hamilton and Bia had this tire vibration with the other D&R cars, but it went beyond just us. I talked to other teams, and Helio had it, Danica had it. Pretty strange.
My first stint, I was playing it smart, not really pushing hard and this tire problem emerged. The car started sliding, and the vibration was so bad it became hard to see clearly, and I came out of Turn 4 and touched the wall enough to bend the lower control arm. So we said, “OK, let's fix it and keep running,” because we thought there would be lots of crashes with the two-wide restarts.
I was about 20 laps down by then, and we used the first few runs as a setup session to get the car handling a little bit better. So, we changed the ride height, changed the wing angles but it didn't help the tire situation. I had four sets of tires that went out of balance on me. It was so freakin' weird: we could run good speed and set 221s, but then after 15 laps the rubber would be worn and out of balance.
So for now, that's the end of my adventure with Dreyer & Reinbold. I wish we could have had more to show for it in terms of results on paper, but at least we were able to play a strong role in Bump Day, and we've been able to assess each other's qualities. And trust me, even being several laps down sure beats sitting at home watching it on TV like last year…
Next on the schedule is Texas Motor Speedway next week, driving for Jay Penske in the No. 8 Dragon Racing car. It turns out that Ho-Pin Tung's accident at Indy was less damaging than we thought, and that car's gone in for painting already. That race will be a prime one for our boys at Motegi Racing, 1) Because the company's HQ is just down the road and 2) Because of their major announcement the week leading up to Indy. (Check out their website at MotegiRacing.com.) But then I'm always looking forward to getting out there and putting the hammer down, whatever the track.
If you can be there, do it. Thanks for all your support.