P.T. takes it to the edge at TMS. (LAT photo)
We've got to be happy with Texas, I think, given the circumstances. After Dragon Racing's crashes in the Indy Time Trials, we didn't have any of the trick bits available, and it's a real tribute to Jay Penske, my engineer Eric Zeto and everyone there that we got a decent car out there. It was pretty much a road course car that had been pieced together from what we had left.
A lot of skeptics outside the team thought we wouldn't have a chance of getting everything repaired, and for sure it put us all on the back foot. That's why we ended the first session 29th fastest. But then look at our rate of progress. After that we qualified 21st, ahead of two Andretti Autosport cars, a Sam Schmidt car, and two Dreyer & Reinbold cars. And then in the Friday evening session, practicing running with a group, we were 10th.
I think we knew from that point we could have a strong race – or strong races. In the first one, we came through to 12th, and again we outperformed some strong teams – I think we beat all the Andretti cars, Newman Haas, Panther and D&R. So then the big question was, where would we draw for the second race? The answer was pretty much where we finished – 14th and I think within 15 laps we were up to fifth, which was pretty good fun. I know Jay got a real kick out of passing one of his dad's cars, when I took Briscoe around the outside.
The reason the car was so great when we were in a pack was that we'd gotten a lot of downforce on it, so we were hoping – and to be honest, expecting – a lot of caution periods in both races, given the way the season's gone in terms of accidents and incidents. So the stronger we were at the start and on restarts, the better. In the end, though, we had only one caution in the first race and none in the second, so eventually we all got strung out, and at that point, it's easier for the guys with lower downforce to pick people off, which is why Dixon and Franchitti were able to pile-drive through the field in race two.
We were just too draggy. On the plus side, apart from coming into the pits, I don't think I lifted off the gas in the whole 228 laps, but we were easy pickings for the faster cars so we gradually dropped down and took 13th.
I can tell you, the racing back in the pack is pretty fierce. Tag was the polesitter for the first race, but started 16th for the second one and he was still behind me at the end.
Pit stops went OK – there was bit of a bobble on one of them, which probably cost us a couple positions, but then we went for a no-tire stop in the second which probably gained us positions. So I think for a part-time team we gave a pretty good account of ourselves, and I have big hopes that the street course car is going to be good. Well, let's be honest – it's the same car, but now Dragon Racing has got a month to fine-tune it for Toronto, our next race. At least they won't have anything like the sort of scramble they've had to do since Indy to build the Texas car.
Jody Groce from WheelPros was happy with the coverage Motegi Racing got, and I was able to get my personal sponsors Arma Energy and Rockford Fosgate on the car, too.
Compliments to Will Power on his first oval win (but not the strange dance he did on top of the car). I remember talking to him about a year ago and he was saying, “What the hell have I got to do to win one of these things? The Ganassi cars are always so quick.” So I'm pleased to see Will's got one under his belt now, and he's gotten over the mental hump of being the nearly man on the ovals.
It would be nice to think I can give him some pressure on my home soil in Toronto – it was only two years ago we battled in the top three. Me and Zeto have some good history there, so I'm hopeful we can do Dragon Racing, Honda Canada and our usual sponsors proud. See you there.