That will teach me. When I went to bed last night, I was thinking “OK, bad day, but if we work our asses off, we can still have a decent showing in qualifying. At least the weekend can't get any worse for us.”
Holy crap, today managed to beat that optimism out of me! I told Jimmy Vasser, “Driving for you is almost making me want to quit,” and I'm not surprised he didn't see the funny side. KV Racing is having a real struggle this weekend, and I'm sorry to say that the No. 15 Honda Canada/Make A Wish car was the worst of the four cars.
This morning we were 15th and I felt we could have done better there, because we caught traffic on my second flying lap and the third I just didn't get it done. On black tires, the car was kinda OK at that stage and so we didn't panic, and just felt some minor tweaks were needed. We reckoned the red tires would be much faster but it turns out they weren't. We stiffened up the front and added a little front wing to cope with the understeer that we were expecting from the reds, but this afternoon, as soon as we started pushing the car the way you have to for qualifying, it just kinda went demented and didn't do a damn thing I was asking from it.
In brake zones it was locking up wheels way too easy, it was grounding out too easy, and it had monster oversteer on corner entry. Then when we hit the concrete patches of the track, it made the front end take off, and when we correct that, the rear stepped around again. Traction out of the corners when the car's like that is just a joke. The end result is that we were just plain slow. When the field is packed this tight, you can't afford even a small problem so there wasn't a hope in hell of us progressing out of Q1.
We spun in one of the fastest turns, the second-to-last corner, and that caused a full course yellow that lost us our fast laps. But they weren't fast anyway. It was completely freaky how bad it was, and I could only tell the team that it felt like there was something major wrong. I mean, I've driven wrecked cars back to the pits that handled better than that.
So we took it back to the pad and found the problem: the rear suspension geometry was different on one side than the other. Now I've had apologies f
rom Jimmy and apologies from the team but, “Sorry” doesn't help us now that we're 24th. And no, it's not a consolation that Takuma and Mario were slow too. E.J. Viso had been looking strong but in qualifying trim, he struggled too, although he did manage to get 13th.
Someone said that the KV team is looking as lost at Toronto as Andretti Green's four cars did here last year. I don't know about that though, because in our case with the Honda Make a Wish car, I don't think we gave ourselves a fair chance with it. I hate to go over it again, but it did feel like I was reliving my Indy experience – the amount of work that myself and my sponsors and supporters put in, only to see it fall flat on its face. OK, so we're still in the race, but starting so far back when you think we could have at least been up with E.J. is so frustrating – not only for me but also for Jimmy, the rest of the KV team, Motegi Racing and definitely the Canadian fans.
I'm not too old to find the silver lining in the freakin' big, black clouds though – at least we know what the problem was and the No. 15 crew will fix the issue tonight, and I'd rather start at the back than in 17th or 18th. At least from the back you can get completely off strategy right away and do something different. Last race, E.J. had to start at the back, but he came through to 11th with the help of just two yellows. I'll aim to improve on that, obviously. For one thing, I'm expecting more yellows; and this is one of those races where there are normally enough incidents that strategies from out of leftfield can work. What's that Honda tag-line on my rear wing? "The Power of Dreams." Yup. Sounds about right.
For the sake of my main men from Motegi Racing here this weekend, as well as my supporters from Kicker Car Audio, CEC, AlpineStars, Oakley and Monster, I'm going to drive smart and drive hard tomorrow, and listen to the strategies the KV Racing boys give me. I know the team can turn the Honda Canada/Make A Wish car around – they gave me a fast car here for race day last year – and I'm willing to fight uphill battles until I drop. I'm just saying…it didn't have to be this way.P.T.
P.S: Got to congratulate my team from the last race, Dreyer & Reinbold – they've been at the front all weekend and Justin did a great job to break Penske's qualifying dominance.