Tony Kanaan's journal: Heads up, moving forward
Welcome back, everyone. It hasn’t been the best of times lately, but we’re doing the only thing we can do – keeping our heads up and moving forward.
When times get bad, the only thing you can do is remain positive. If you let the negative get to you, it only snowballs. Negative thoughts become negative deeds. Likewise, positive thoughts become positive deeds. I’ve been racing long enough to know that if I continue down a negative path, it only gets worse. If I fight through negative times by using positive thinking, it can – and almost always does – get better.
So here’s the two most positive things I can find as we head into this weekend’s race at the Glen at Watkins Glen: First, we raced well Saturday night at Richmond. Second, we’re at Watkins Glen this weekend.
I know what you’re thinking about the first one, my friends. You’re thinking we finished sixth at Richmond. You’re thinking we were a lap down. You’re thinking we’re seventh in the standings, haven’t won a race or a pole position this year, and haven’t finished on the podium since April. See what I said about negative thoughts just leading to more negative thoughts?
Here’s the way I’m looking at it: Eerything happens for a reason, and we have a reason to be optimistic. At Richmond, we had an O-ring failure in the fuel cell at the start of the practice session. We had three laps of practice before it went out. It was a huge job for the guys to fix, but they got us out there in time for qualifying. We were slow, so we started 17th. But in the race, we were good. If it hadn’t been for one untimely caution that dropped us a lap down, we would have been in good shape. It was a very positive effort. So were the other three efforts by Andretti Green Racing on Saturday night.
To come from 17th to sixth on a night when nobody was able to pass is quite an accomplishment. If we hadn’t had the mechanical failure in practice, we would have started up front, and I’m convinced we could have challenged for the win. We were fast enough. We just had too much ground to make up.
If you take that fact and put it with another fact – that we’re racing at Watkins Glen this weekend – you’ll see why I’m enthusiastic. The Glen is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. It’s also our first road course of the season, and we’ve always performed well at road courses. But Watkins Glen is special. It has history. You can feel it every time you get on the track.
It’s such a cool place. If you’ve been here, you know that. But if you’re a race fan and you’ve never been here, you really should visit. Back in the late 1940s, to make the summer tourism season last longer, the village of Watkins Glen organized a sports car race on a course using local roads, including some that went through the town. In 1952, a spectator was killed – you can still see the plaque marking the spot if you walk through downtown Watkins Glen – and in 1953 the course was moved so it didn’t go through town. Finally, in 1956, the permanent course we use now was built on a hill a few miles out of town, and in 1957 it hosted its first race.
It’s most famous for being the site of the United States Grand Prix back in the day, and some very famous drivers have won races at Watkins Glen. That’s what gets me. I’m a history buff, and anytime we race at historic places, I get all starry-eyed. Same thing happens to me at Indy. It’s like you can feel those famous racers from long ago racing with you. It’s just a special place to me.
The other thing I love about Watkins Glen is the scenery. My friend Scott Dixon, who seems to win this race every year, often says it reminds him of his home country, New Zealand. Well, sometimes it reminds me of <i> my </i> home country, Brazil. It’s always beautiful and green when we’re here, and it has hills and water, kind of like Brazil. The scenery takes my breath away.
It’s charming, too. If you visit the village, you’ll see other plaques on the sidewalk honoring drivers who won races. You’ll see small shops and restaurants and pubs. You’ll see wonderful memorabilia shops where you can buy posters and photos and programs from past races. It is something every race fan should see and appreciate.
The circuit itself is an enormous challenge. It combines big speed with big corners and big elevation changes. It’s everything a great road course should be, right down to the nicknames. We use the full course, which includes the section known as The Boot, which sweeps downhill into the toe of the boot, then comes back uphill around the heel in dramatic style. If I wasn’t a professional, I’d scream like a kid on a roller coaster. (Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I scream anyway. It’s just that much fun.)
So, as you can tell, I’m keeping it positive. We will break out of this slump. It’s only temporary. Saturday night’s finish was a good sign. This weekend’s race is always one of my favorites. One good step leads to another. We just have to keep our chins up and move forward.
And, with any luck, I’ll be screaming after the race, too.