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At Verizon Team Penske, the policy is to always look forward. Roger [Penske] teaches you that and you see it in the philosophy of all team members. What's done is done and you can't change it; you learn on the job and you take that lesson on to the next race. But sometimes you can't help looking back and kicking yourself and that's what I was doing after the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Texas. We were leading and we'd have had a good chance of winning, but I blocked Tony Kanaan as he took a run at me. Our cars made light contact and it broke his car's front wing on the back of my car, so I got a pitlane drive-through penalty.
As soon as I made the move and felt the bump, I thought, “Uh-oh, I'm gonna get a penalty here,” because I had moved in reaction to the move Kanaan was making to draft past me. And I'm annoyed with myself for not either moving to the left earlier or for not just letting him go, because I think we had a strong chance of ending the race in Victory Lane. I'd have had to get past him again, sure, but I think our No. 12 Verizon car was stronger. If TK's wing hadn't been damaged in the impact, Race Control might have just given me a warning on the radio, but as it is, it broke and so I ruined his night and I feel for the guy because he was having a strong run.
Do I agree with the penalty? Well, I've seen drivers going unpunished for bigger misdemeanors, but that's not really an argument, I suppose. If you're stopped by the police for doing 50mph in a 40 zone, you can't argue, “But officer, I saw someone else doing 60 here last night!” That doesn't make what you were doing any less wrong. So as long as anyone pulling similar stunts gets the same punishment from Race Control, I have no issue with the penalty. Although I'm aggressive, I think I'm one of the fair drivers out there, so you won't see me make a wrong move like that again.
I guess I'm mad at myself because we'd already done most of the hard work. We'd had to come back in after a pit stop because there was something wrong with the wheelnut on the right rear that allowed the wheel to work loose. So that double pit stop had dropped us to 20th, but already I was confident that I could get back to the front gradually, picking off people one by one over the whole race. And that's exactly what we did. We were back into the lead and on the right strategy when the incident with TK happened, and the penalty dropped us to eighth.
So in case you haven't seen, we're all – well, most of us – giving major props to IndyCar and in particular the VP of technology, Will Phillips, for how they handled Texas. The drivers approached him about cutting out flat-out-all-the-time racing, and he came up with a technical solution. The Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway was a real oval race, and you could tell that just by the lines we were having to take. It wasn't just about hugging the bottom of the track to get the shortest distance around. You had to take the racing line, starting off wide, coming down to the apex, then easing out wide again. You had to lift off the gas, you had to work the car and you had to look after the tires. We weren't just foot flat to the floor all the way around, where whoever has the freshest engine and the most highly-polished car gets to the front. This was driving. This is what the great oval racers like Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti had to do.
There was a small increase in downforce given back to us after qualifying; they gave us a wicker, because some drivers felt the car was just a bit too unstable. But I hope next year that we get that taken away again, because in 12 months' time, everyone's going to know the Dallara DW12 a little bit better, we'll have found a bit more mechanical grip, and suddenly the cars will be a bit easier to drive if we leave the wicker on. Basically, I think if you're pedal to the floor all the way round an oval on fresh tires for more than eight or 10 laps, then the formula's wrong. If it's like that, there's too much downforce, and that would be true whether we are racing at Milwaukee, Iowa, Texas, Indy or wherever. At Texas we were doing 210mph at the start of a stint and 200-202mph at the end because the tires were going off.
At Texas the formula was right and we delivered one of the best races, and the driver who did the best job on the night won the race. Justin Wilson conserved his tires, drove well, hung onto it when it got loose and drove into Victory Lane. The only time you saw a pack of cars was at the start and on restarts, and when drivers lost it, they hit the wall softer and at much less of an angle and they didn't take two or three other cars with them. Everything was right about that race and, as well as praising IndyCar, I think drivers and fans should be giving props to Firestone, too, because they brought exactly the right compound to help make the racing great.