We decided to call me back in for another splash of fuel at the end of the yellow. Sure, it would put me right to be at the back of the pack as well as being that lap down, but it would enable me to go farther in the stint this time, and as it turns out I hadn't been the only car caught out by the yellow falling at just that time, so there were still several cars for me to play with also one lap down and keep me entertained. I knew I had passed quite a few of those guys already, so I knew I could pass them again. Playtime.
The stint went to plan, I re-passed cars and made my way back toward the front of the pack who had dropped one lap back. Then came my next green flag pit stop. I attacked the entry a little better, hit my marks spot on, and then as I was waved out, came the moment of my race that unfortunately people are talking about afterward. With our pit box being right at the entry of pit road, I had been told all along that I was always going to have to be waved out into traffic at some point during the race, but that as long as the traffic was in the outside lane, I would be sent and told to stay inside. As far as I was aware until after the race, that was all that happened.
I knew the car on the outside of me didn't seem happy I was there, and that my lane seemed very narrow. I also knew that he suddenly slammed on his brakes. It turned out that the car was Tony Kanaan, and me being sent meant he couldn't get into his pit box, because, to put it quite simply, my car was there! Watching it later on TV, I guess he was already trying to come across to get in because there was plenty of room to his right, and I had to really squeeze to get between him and the laid-out tires. It turns out those tires were his. I only became aware of all this after the fact. All I knew is I was sent into traffic as I was told I would be, and I held my own in exactly the way I was told to. I'm glad that TK was able to get back up front and compete by the end of the race.
However, the big thing that would affect my race started to play itself into the game over the course of my third stint. My body has been used to racing 100 miles with no water – no problem in an Indy Lights car. At around mile 200 I started to realize that maybe getting to end of this thing with no fluids wasn't going to be as easy as I had thought it would be at the start. With no fluids or electrolytes coming on board, the muscles in my right side – and my right shoulder and arm in particular – started to fatigue.
At first, just as with not having the water, I didn't think too much of it. But the descent from mild discomfort to severe cramping happened extremely rapidly. By the time I was three Indy Lights races into the 500, I was in a lot of pain, and I still had two Indy Lights races to go. My day stopped being about having fun, and turned into a quest for survival. My thought process was simple – quitting was never an option, I would just have to tough it out.
My last stop was done at the very end of the last yellow, and then my last stint became all about saving fuel. My body was feeling ravaged by the dehydration, the pain from my right side was similar to the pain I drove with last year in Toronto and Edmonton with my broken left hand prior to surgery. I was having to restart in the front of the pack with guys who were racing for the win, not even guys who I was racing with. And I had to make the fuel number to get to the end.
Anytime you are saving fuel in an IndyCar, you need full concentration. The closing rates of people running at full speed compared to yours can be scary. It's no longer just about the spotters, it's about watching your mirrors the whole way 'round, and judging how quickly someone is closing and where you think they're going to catch you. Every few laps the radio would tell me that I needed to save more, save more, save more.
Then the final yellow came out, and I was able to leap off the throttle, take sixth gear, switch my fuel mode to yellow, and nurse the car – and my body – home across the line. I would like to tell you I felt a sense of achievement, but to be honest, in that moment, all I felt was pain. I was taken straight from my car to the infield care center.
Several days later, and I'm finally starting to get past the post-dehydration exhaustion. My right arm had gone into spasm so badly that after the race I could barely move it at all, but now I do have nearly full range of motion back in it. It is still fairly sore, however, and according to the doctors will stay that way for a few more days. Maybe I should view it as a memento of what I went through to bring that car home to the end. And you know what? We didn't just get to the end, I actually made it home in 20th place. But most important of all, I did exactly what I wanted to do in the race – I drove in a way that made all of the guys on my car and my team owner proud to be associated with me, and that is something that I can, in turn, be proud of myself.
Right now, however, my thoughts are already moving on from Indy and to the future. This was always a one-race-only deal, and we still don't have the funding to get me back out in a car again anytime soon. I'm hoping to get back out this year to run some more races, and the good news is my performance at Indy has definitely helped open some doors. However, nothing is done yet, and as of right now I am back standing on my own two feet with no wheels underneath me. Don't think that means I'm giving up, though, or that I'm going away. I'm determined, I'm resilient, and to quote a famous movie line – I'll be back.