The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, the race before that, was frustrating but less so than Texas. At first I was mad at myself for missing the upshift out of the final turn on the run to the line on my final qualifying run, considering we only missed pole to Scott Dixon by 0.044sec. But looking at the data, I don't think getting that right would have tipped the balance in our favor. In fact I'd made a little bit of a mistake earlier in the lap, while watching someone go down a run-off area ahead of me, and I think that's what cost me. Scott got everything right, I didn't and like I've said before, pole positions come from sewing every little detail together on the crucial lap and in this case I didn't do that.
I expect it to be that close at every IZOD IndyCar Series event. There are a lot of very good drivers in very good cars out there, so it's up to myself, Verizon Team Penske and Chevrolet to beat them, to find and use every advantage we can. But you know, that's great. Reacting to increased opposition, improving ourselves, being faster and smarter – those are all things that are right at the heart of what racers do, and Team Penske is made of racers.
On race day in Detroit, when I came into the pit at the end of my first stint, my left-rear tire was down to the canvas, we'd been working it so hard. We were just trying to go as long as possible to make our fuel strategy work so I lost a chunk of time to Dixon before the pit stop. After the race was stopped and restarted, if no one had got between my car and his, I think I had the pace to keep pressure on him. But unless he made a mistake, I wouldn't have been able to pass.
The race was stopped because of the track surface issue, and I was disappointed when they said it was going to restart but run for only 15 more laps…but that we had to stay on the same compound of tires we were on when it stopped. That meant anyone who'd gone onto blacks, the longer-lasting but less grippy tires, was at a disadvantage because effectively we now had a sprint race! The grip difference between fresh red (soft) tires and blacks was so big (that's normally a good thing), suddenly we became sitting ducks.
On the first restart, Dixon went, and I went with him, but when he backed off just before the green flag, I had to as well because you're not allowed to pass the leader before the green flag waves. That allowed Simon Pagenaud to get a good run on me and up into second. Then on the next restart Pagenaud braked so early for Turn 1 with me behind him that Dario Franchitti – on reds – must have been laughing to himself because he was able to drive around the outside of both of us!
So a fourth place was disappointing but not disastrous. Actually, the fact that the race was shortened had another disappointing effect for the fans and the No. 12 Verizon team – just a couple minutes after the checkered flag, it started raining pretty hard. Now that would have made things very interesting. But hey, if you can be disappointed with a fourth place, that's not so bad. Sometimes you've just got to roll with the punches.
We've got to do that again at Milwaukee this weekend because we had an engine let go during testing at Iowa, just 30 miles before it was due to be lifed out anyway. Dixon, the guy closest to us in the championship, also had his engine let go. And so Scott and I each have a 10-place grid penalty. At an oval, that's not so bad and the No. 12 Verizon team has had more challenging situations than that and made our way to the front. But it does mean we want to qualify well and minimize the effect of the penalty.
And then next week, we're back at Iowa and there are heat races to decide the grid order for the main race. It's an interesting idea and it should get quite exciting. I think having (race strategist) Tim Cindric on my side will be a big boost regarding tactics for these heats. He's a good guy to have by your side when you're trying to get the No. 12 Verizon car back into Victory Lane. And every time out, that's our goal.
Thanks for reading.
Follow Will on Twitter at @12WillPower and follow Team Penske at @PenskeRacing and at www.PenskeRacing.com
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