Tracy and Dragon Racing jumped in at the deep end. (LAT photo)
Not the ideal day, but I think we're gonna be fine. I smacked my No. 8 Dragon Racing car against the wall in second practice, but I can tell you that the car is good. So I'm bummed that I ended up giving the boys a bunch of unnecessary work tonight. I think Ralphs and Motegi Racing wanted more air time during that second session as well. Or at least, air time that showed the car on the track, not on the hook. Maybe I shouldn't have been so harsh on EJ Viso on my Twitter account, huh?
I haven't driven this course for three years, but it all came back pretty quick. I'd forgotten how much I'd loved street courses (it's a long time since Toronto last year). You have to be aggressive and reactive in some corners, smooth and forward-thinking in others, and while you're getting shaken around, you've got to be analyzing the car's behavior too. It's good to have that challenge.
We went out and got with the program this morning. I was pleasantly surprised. I ran eight or nine laps just to get my eye in – no changes to the car – and we wound up 15th. I can't tell you how much faith that gives me and the team in ourselves and each other. We were in the ballpark.
We changed the brake master-cylinder, because the last person to drive this car was Tony Kanaan in the offseason test and he likes the brakes to be really stiff and require a big jab. I prefer a progressive, softer, slightly spongier feel so I can tell when the wheels are about to lock up and just modulate the pressure more accurately. So with that and one or two other changes, in the second session I went out and could feel the difference right away.
I was on my first quick lap after the tires came in, and I was already three or four tenths up on this morning's time, and I just hustled it too hard over one of the curbs in Turn 5. It hit the bottom of the tub, and bounced the front tires off the ground, and I ran out of track to get it slowed down once the front landed again. The car understeered into the tire wall and tore up the left-front wing, suspension and wheel.
Putting the guys through extra work is no fun at all when I know it was totally my fault. It's not a big volume of parts that are damaged; it's the bodywork that's giving them the late night, the patchwork they're having to do on the carbon fiber, because the wheel came up and gave the sidepod a big whack.
Tomorrow if we can continue the work with the setup, I'm confident we can be right there and slide into the Top 12. It's difficult when they have 27 cars and they only take six from each side and I'm coming in…not as sharp as if I'd done St. Pete and Barber. So if we can advance, I'd be really happy with that.
The crowd has been great – a lot of people phoned in sick for their jobs today, huh? – and I think the SoCal crowd has made a real connection with sponsorship from Ralphs grocery. I'm pleased Jody Groce from WheelPros (parent company of Motegi Racing) has flown out to watch us in action and I think Jay Penske's team has basically lived up to my expectations – even though my expectations were high.
So tomorrow, I'm hoping tomorrow I live up to Jay's.
Over and out