Sunday was an incredible first “test” day for me. We were only able to complete one phase of the Rookie Orientation yesterday due to the weather, so I started with the second phase today. Again, I had the same feelings as yesterday when I went out on the track. I was actually driving an Indy car!
We had a little problem after I completed the second phase with the fuel pump, which made us come in to the garage and stop for a while. I had a chance to actually see my mechanics work for the first time under pressure. I was amazed at the job they all did and how well they combined together to change what was wrong and get me back out on the track as fast as possible. It was very exciting to see firsthand how professional the work is at Bryan Herta Autosport.
We returned to the pit lane after about two hours and I went back out on the track. I felt very comfortable and finally did my first flat-out lap around this place. It was the best feeling of all. To be able to be flat-out for the first time is something that you cannot take away. It gives you a great feeling of satisfaction. As soon as I was able to do that, every lap I was flat-out and I started focusing more on what I needed from my car.
Something that really amazes me is how many tire changes we do. We change them every few outings. This is something that I am still getting used to, trying to picture myself every time with new tires. It's fun and it really helps set up the car a lot faster.
I was able to complete all the phases for Rookie Orientation and felt very comfortable with the speeds at each step. It was a very good day and I was happy that the rain held off so we could get this done. Again, I really appreciate the efforts of everyone on the team to get us back out so quickly. We did 45 laps total today and my fastest lap was a 218.9mph.
It has been great working with my engineer Chris [Finch]. In a very short time, we are able to understand each other to a position where we are already focusing, at a very early stage of the Indy 500, to work on making a great car. We have been coming up one mph every outing and that is a big jump every time we go out.
Today I experienced my first yellow flag in IndyCar when [Dan] Wheldon crashed. It was a bit scary, for sure, because my radio was not working very clearly sometimes so I had to go with my instincts. It was a huge adrenaline rush knowing that it was not a drill but the real thing.
I am very happy right now and looking forward to what is going to happen tomorrow. Our goals were to finish the Rookie Orientation and start focusing on the car. We know that we are very conservative still with the car, trying to get me into the rhythm of being flat-out. Every outing we are taking downforce and drag off trying to bring the speed up. This is something very nice from Chris that he is taking it slow and wanting me to learn every stage of the process. This is helping me a lot as a driver. Our goal for Monday is to get up into the 220s. It is going to be something very interesting to feel and I am looking forward.