Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Video of the Day!

So I finally got the on board footage from the Indy Lights rookie test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I had an oversteer moment with a catch into turn 1 that is pretty impressive. Enjoy! (and mom: when you watch the video, you will realize it isn't a near wipeout....I hope)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Close Call

I just watched the race coverage from Kansas and I really did have a close call! I obviously didn't realize during the race that Yacaman had spun and then hit me, not hit me and then spun as I had originally thought. Another 6 inches and I would have been headed straight into the wall. 6 inches in the other direction and I would have finished in the top 8. As it was, all it cost me was 2 laps and 5 positions (and a right rear). Some of the wrecks were definitely scary. I think maybe it is a good thing that the recording didn't work at home. At least my mom will let me race the rest of the year! :)
Thanks to IRL Photo for this picture- practice running in a pack.

Kansas Lottery 100 on TV!

The race coverage from last weekend's extremely exciting Kansas Lottery 100 will be on in an hour. It will be shown on the cable channel, Versus TV, at 4PM EST/ 1PM PST. It is an hour of coverage and should be quite exciting. I know that my team manager has organized a BBQ at his house to watch the race coverage because he thought it was that exciting. It should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Fitting Name for Sunday’s Race

Short Story: Started 7th- Finished 13th two laps down after having to stop and change a flat right rear tire. I also recorded the fastest race lap at an average speed of nearly 187 mile an hour.

Long Story (or short book!):Today’s Firestone Indy Lights race was the Kansas Lottery 100. The Kansas Lottery had sponsored the event and since it was 100 miles long (67 laps of the 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway) it was a fitting name. What made it perfect was that it turned out to be a lottery in so many ways! Overnight, it had rained very hard (at one point there was a tornado warning in the area around the track!) and washed off a lot of the rubber the Indy Cars and Indy Lights had built up. Also, the weather was still very unsettled and storms were threatening. The wind was stronger than it had been all weekend and was gusting to over 30 miles an hour. It was blowing directly across turns 1 and 2 (not really an issue) and from inside out in turns 3 and 4 (big issue!). We were scheduled to race at 12 noon after the Indy Cars had their Sunday morning warm up. Because of the threatening weather (and no need for a time certain schedule without live TV coverage) the race director moved our start time up to 10AM. This all contributed to a race that ran almost as many laps under yellow as under the green flag! There were 10 cars that didn’t finish due to incidents- all of them through 3 and 4. There were even a couple of cars that spun and didn’t hit anything- not causing a yellow but still chaotic.

All of these factors made my first oval race quite an experience. I started inside row 4 in 7th. The first start was waved off (not sure why) and so we did an extra lap in formation before taking the green flag. The start went well for me; I accelerated up through the gears, took the green and stayed low through 1 and 2. My line got held up by Pippa Mann directly in front of me and so I had a couple of cars go past me around the outside. I settled into a rhythm and passed back one of the cars that got me on the start as well as Pippa. Then the first of many yellows flew for a really big crash in turn 4. There were three cars involved and it took quite a few laps to clean it up. When we next went green, I had a good restart and was working back into the rhythm. I was setting up Daniel Herrington, the other car that passed me on the initial start when it went yellow again. After they finally got all that cleaned up, we went green again. I had another oval rookie Gustavo Yacaman on my outside heading into 3 and 4 (where all the chaos had been happening!). I held my line on the inside and all of a sudden I hear my spotter, “yellow, yellow, yellow- The guy on your outside spun down the track.” I had seen the tire smoke and was feeling pretty good about myself- I was having a good run, being patient, learning so much so quickly, ready for it to go back to green. Then as we accelerated to prepare for the restart, I felt something funny in the back right of the car. On an oval, the rule is: If it feels funny, stop and check it out! I thought it was the right rear tire going down so rather than risk a lot, accelerate to the green and stick it in the fence, I brought it to pit road and pulled into the pit box with a flat right rear tire. The crew did a good job changing it and away I went back on track- two laps down and in 17th position. I was just getting back up to speed and it went yellow for another big wreck in 3 and 4. What we think happened on the cut tire is that Yacaman behind me tried to come down on me when he was running on the high line. His wing rubbed on my tire, cut it and sent him spinning. That matches what the team saw on the side of the tire and him having to stop for a new wing. I spent the rest of the race racing with my teammate (on the lead lap) and James Hinchliffe (only one lap down). Watching Jay’s driving (and running side by side with him) taught me a lot about how to maximize what you have on the oval. He was really struggling with the car, but kept going and racing smart. There was another really big crash down in turn 3 and 4 near enough to the end that we finished the race under yellow flag. Because of all the chaos and carnage, I finished the race in 13th place. I also had the fastest race lap time. I know we had the pace to run in the top 5-8 all day. Once again, I am encouraged by the speed of the car and the way the team and engineering staff is making progress. Also, on a day when there was probably close to $500k in crash damage, I brought the car home with all four tires (three I started with!) all pointed straight and rolling. I picked up points and learned a lot. Pretty soon, Lady Luck is going to smile on me and we will be on the podium.

Now I am on a plane from Kansas City, Missouri (?!? I don’t get why Kansas City is mostly in Missouri) to Atlanta where I will grab a nice healthy dinner in the airport somewhere before a late night flight down to Palm Beach, Florida. I am spending the week down in Palm Beach doing things at Palm Beach International Raceway before speaking at the American Diabetes Wholesale’s Diabetes Educator of the Year award breakfast, Friday May 1st at the Boca Raton Resort and Spa. I then head up to Indianapolis on Saturday before our test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Tuesday, May 5th.

Biggest impression from my first oval race: What a lot of fun! The whole weekend was truly enjoyable- from practicing running in traffic, to single car two lap qualifying to racing in a pack inches from each other at over 180 miles an hour. It’s a real blast!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kansas Speedway's Saturday

Today was a day of new experiences for me as a racing driver. It was the start of my first oval race weekend, I had a full race practice session with 22 cars to contend with, a split practice session, a rain interruption in practice and my first oval qualifying experience.

Practice first. As it is my first oval race, my team and I planned to spend a lot of time running in traffic to get used to how the car feels around other cars. With the turbulent air coming off the car in front, not only do you get a big 'tow' or 'slipstream', your car doesn't have as much downforce as you would in 'clean' air. It takes a little getting used to as well as having a spotter in your ear all the time telling you where the other cars are. A spotter is a guy who stands up at the top of the grandstand buildings and talks to me over the radio. He gives me information on where other cars are around me- inside, outside, behind, closing, looking high, looking low, clear behind- those terms. That way I can concentrate on looking ahead and running my line. With that help, it was a lot of fun to run side by side all the way around the track. I am not sure how to explain how much fun it is to be inches away from another car at over 180 miles an hour- for multiple laps consecutively- other than it left me grinning ear to ear! I am really looking forward to the race and seeing how things work when you are in a whole train of cars- rather than just 3 or 4.

Then it was time for qualifying this afternoon. We weren't sure we would get to do the session as there were dark clouds all around the track. On a road course, it is not such a huge deal if it rains as you put wet tires on the car and go run. On on oval, however, you only run in the dry. The wet would just be too fast and too dangerous. Qualifying on an oval is unique as it is one car at a time for two laps. It is the combined lap time of those two laps that set the grid. The order in which you go out is drawn out of a hat the day before the race. I was 19th out of 24 cars. Going later in the group can be a small advantage as the track picks up more grip and the air gets swirling a bit (so there is less aerodynamic 'drag'). You get one warm up lap to build heat into the tires as well as build the momentum in the car. The way to go fast in qualifying on the oval is to go out of the pits, put your right (gas) foot all the way to the floor, turn left as needed, lift of the gas after the checkered flag. :) A lot of the laptime on an oval comes down to minute changes in the racing line and a huge amount about car set up.

Well I went out to qualify and did my two laps. After I passed the line, my engineer said, "Very nice job, Charlie. Excellent......Oh yeah, you are 5th at the moment!" Out of the 5 cars after me, one had a problem, two went quicker and two went slower than me. I ended up 7th in the order meaning I will start on the inside of row 4 for the race. I am ecstatic to have qualified inside the top 10!! After I heard my time, I was doing my 'don't rain' dance on the cool down lap! If the rain had come before everyone had a chance to qualify, we would have started based on championship positions and I would have been 12th. Luckily, the weather held.

The weather for tomorrow is a little uncertain. There have been some heavy thunderstorms and even tornado warnings here in Kansas this afternoon/ evening. It has been raining off and on (sometimes super heavily) since about 5:45 this evening. We will see what the weather looks like in the morning. I am scheduled to race at 12 noon, but they have said everyone should be ready to go by 10 in case it's dry and we can get the race in before the rain.

Here's a good website to read the results. Also, this story came out about me in the Kansas City Star this morning. And finally, here's an article from my hometown paper, the Camarillo Acorn, from this week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Night in Kansas

It's Friday night and I am in another hotel room. But I can handle it because I get to drive the race car tomorrow! I am here in Kansas City and getting ready for my first ever oval race. I did all the typical pre-race stuff- get my helmet and race gear checked out for safety, made some small adjustments in the seating position of the car, put a new DexCom Seven Plus sensor in and start it up, wander around the paddock and see what's happening, got to the autograph session, get excited, bother my mechanics with bad jokes to vent of excited energy- typical pre-race weekend activities. An addition to my typical activity list was an on camera interview with Fox 4's morning show here in Kansas City. Although with the help of my sponsors and their fantastic PR company, these interviews seem to be happening more and more! I just watched the video and I came across a lot more relaxed (even if I didn't feel it!) than I did in the interview in Long Beach. On a another note, I met two other people with type 1 diabetes today during the autograph session. One was the son of a race fan (Josh I think was his name) and he was diagnosed about 18 months ago as well. Ed, the other man, has had diabetes for over 35 years and took part in some of the medical trials for an insulin on the market today. I enjoy making those connections- no matter how random.

Now it is off to bed- an early start with the driver's meeting at 8 in the morning. There is some prediction for rain over the weekend- thunderstorms and the like, so we will see how mother nature toys with us.

You can follow me all weekend online at the Indy Lights website. Here's the live timing link- but I'm not sure it works!

Here's the weekend schedule:

8 AM Driver's Meeting
9-9:45 AM- Practice 1 (all together)
11:40AM-12:40PM- Practice 2 (2 split groups of 30 minutes each)
3:30-4:30PM Qualifying

9:00AM Driver's Meeting
11:45 Indy Lights Pre-Race
12:00- 1:00 Indy Lights Kansas Lottery 100 (67 Laps- 100 Miles)

TV Coverage:
Monday April 27th, Versus TV 4PM EDT (1PM PDT)

Monday, April 20, 2009

TV Coverage from Long Beach

The race coverage from Round 3 of the Indy Lights championship will be shown today, Monday April 20th, at 1PM PDT (4PM EDT) on Versus TV. I will be posting a more in depth recap to the weekend when I get a chance!
A big thank you to my friend Cory Knopes for this picture from the stands in Long Beach. Check out his Flickr.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday in the Sun

Saturday here in Long Beach was perfect as far as the weather was concerned. The sun was out, the wind was only a light breeze, and the temperature was in the mid to high 70's. An absolute perfect day to spend at the racetrack. I am glad it was warm this morning as I had qualifying at 8:45 and I was in the first group to run.

My qualifying wasn't exactly perfect though. We made some changes to the car overnight and while we made big gains in one area, we really hurt another are of the car that made it difficult for me to push on the new tires. As a result I struggled to get the new tires in quickly enough. Then the session was interrupted. For a crash? Nope. For a medical emergency from a spectator on the outside of the track. The only way they could get an ambulance out there was to stop our session and drive the ambulance across the track!!! That was a first for me. I have never had a session stopped for a spectator medical emergency. I have been at a track when the races were stopped because a helicopter crash landed next to the track ( in England- everyone was OK).
When the session restarted, I had 4-5 laps to go quicker so that I would move up the order from 6th place. My first lap wasn't an improvement and I was pushing quite hard on the second when, at the end of the back straight, the car stepped out under braking. I was pushing the envelope and I just caught the bumps differently (and the change to car made it much more difficult on the bumps). As a result, I nosed the car into the tire wall on the outside. Luckily, I bounced back out, was able to restart the car and drive back to the pitlane. I had broken the front wing, but not bent anything else. However, it was lucky I could drive back to the pits as if I had caused a full course caution, my fastest lap time would have been deleted- moving me back even farther. After I crashed, a lot of drivers improved pushing me down the order to 9th in my group. This means that, just as in the second race at St. Petersburg, I will start in 18th.

I am looking forward to the race tomorrow as I showed in St. Pete that with some luck and chaos ahead of me (Long Beach should easily provide as much carnage as St. Pete) I can still race up and finish in the top-10. I will race smart and take whatever result is available to me, but will still be pushing to put on a good show for my hometown fans.

Now it is off to dinner with some friends and family before a good night's rest and strong race in the morning. My race starts at 9:40 A.M. and will be shown live on

Here's a photo from Michael Zampelli's Flickr page of me today at Long Beach.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fun Friday

So my Friday started of nice and early with an interview with Garth the weather guy from KABC 7 at 6:15 this morning. The morning was nice and crisp and promising a beautiful day. The interview went really well and the PR people and sponsor were super happy with it all.

Then it was into practice! The track is a lot of fun, more like a real street circuit than St. Pete was. The road crown plays a huge part into the car set up as well as the bumps around the streets. I was 13th quickest and we had a lot improvements to make to the car.

After a quick nap and a healthy lunch (grilled chicken with spaghetti and salad), it was back out for practice 2. We made some gearing changes going into practice 2 and it helped some, but didn't fix all of my problems. After sitting down and debriefing, we think we have made some big gains in lap time with the gearing set up. It's good as I was only 18th quickest!! It was a shame because I know I could have been quicker but got a bit blocked on my last laps.

Then it time for another debrief, and then onto a big video shoot for my new sponsor, Novo Nordisk- the company that makes my insulin. We had to interrupt that for the autograph session with all the Indy Car drivers. I was at the table with Danica Patrick and so got the most people cycling through for autographs. I went through probably 200 hero cards!!!

And back to the video shoot- lots of fun though. I am finally done at the track. I am just going to grab a quick healthy bite to eat before a well deserved full nights sleep. Qualifying starts bright and early tomorrow morning at 8:45.

Good Night!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

My Thursday was slightly more relaxed than my wild Wednesday yesterday. I got to sleep in a bit and build up a sleep excess for the race weekend (and I will need it- more on that later!). Then I answered some calls, wrote a couple of emails, discussed with my sister about passes and tickets for all my friends and supporters who are coming this weekend (she rocks BTW. She is doing this all for me on her vacation!) and then headed out to the track. I met up with the team, got introduced to my new number 2 mechanic, Anna, who seems really on the ball and already has a good working relationship with my number 1 mechanic, Chris.

Then I ran into Bobby Oergel, who ran me in 2003 in Formula Ford 2000 and still is the best driver coach I know. We talked about the track here in Long Beach as I have not driven here before. Then my race engineer, my teammate, Jay Howard, the team manager, and Bobby O walked around the track. The track walk is my first impression of a circuit and gives me an idea of what it will be like when I first drive it. It also helps the engineer to understand things that I talk about later in the weekend, as far as how the car is reacting because of the road, or bumps, or manhole covers or even changes in pavement.

After the track walk, I went and picked up all the tickets for my friends, family and supporters that will be here this weekend. When I saw the big envelope they gave me, I was even more excited. The chance to race almost in my back yard is exciting, the fact that so many of my friends, family and supporters are coming to cheer me on is the icing on the cake.

Now, the reason why I appreciated the chance to sleep in this morning. My alarm is going off before 5AM tomorrow morning! And I am so excited about it. Excited about getting up in the middle of the night? Yes! I have an interview scheduled with the KABC 7 live morning show from the racetrack at 6AM. I believe the interviewer is going to be the weather man who is on site for the race weekend. Still......ABC!!!! Woohoo. A big thanks to my new sponsors Novo Nordisk for working with their PR agency to get this set up. Our story (that I have been using their insulin since the day I was diagnosed, and our partnership is a great way to raise awareness about diabetes) will make for a very powerful message all season. And then I get to go drive my race car through the streets of Long Beach. I can't think of a better day. Except maybe starting it a little later. :)

As a final reminder for those of you in the LA area, KABC 7 at 6AM, live interview with me. And then follow the race weekend on live timing on the Firestone Indy Lights website.

If it's Wednesday, then this is Long Beach

It is Wednesday, right?

After my incredible drag car experience last week, I feel like my whole life has been run in under 8 seconds at over 160 miles an hour! I stayed in Palm Beach, Florida at the track for Thursday where I took part in a media day and drove a Formula BMW around to show local media all about the racetrack. Then it was off to the airport in the afternoon to catch a flight back to LA in time for some family time at home over Easter weekend and getting ready for my 'home' race in Long Beach. Then things didn't go quite to plan. I had a connection in Dallas and apparently there were strong winds so my plane was delayed out of Florida. When we landed in Dallas, I had 15 minutes to make my connection. I rushed to my gate to see that the in bound plane hadn't even arrived yet! So I went bought a book to read and waited. The second flight of the evening was about an hour late leaving Dallas meaning I didn't get to LA until late and didn't get to bed until almost 3:30 in the morning! Even with all of the drama and the late night, I really enjoyed my weekend. My sister is home for a week from England and I realized how much I missed her insight and perspective. While she is my sister, she is also a huge part of my 'team'.

Also, I had an appointment with my diabetes educator on Tuesday. She is another true inspiration to me! She has been fantastic in all of my diabetes care and is so proactive in how to treat me so that diabetes works into my lifestyle. And she and my endocrinologist, Dr. Anne Peters, complimented me on how things were going. Phew! Big sigh of relief. I feel like I haven't been doing as good a job as I can lately, but after my appointment, I am ready to try harder again. I am still hitting my A1C% goals and still have to go ahead to keep racing.

Other big news, Novo Nordisk announced their partnership with me yesterday. I am extremely excited about this partnership as their insulin, Levemir and NovoLog, allow me to keep racing. Together I know that we can touch a lot of people in the diabetes community and get my story out there. The press release can be read on my website here.

And finally- the race weekend. I am here in Long Beach for some media events already. I am so excited to be racing at home. I know how big a challenge the track is and with the concrete walls, there is no room for error. Still, this race holds a special place in my heart as I am from southern California, I grew up watching it on T.V., I have been to the race a few times, and I will have a lot of support from the stands. I have a few more media events tomorrow, I will spend some time with the team, and get a chance to walk the track. I am so pumped for this weekend! It is going to be a lot of fun.

If you want to come out and show your support, there is a lot of information on the official website of the 35th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The 8 Second Ride of my Life

“Hey Charlie, want to drive the drag car?”

“Sure! You know I like to drive anything, anywhere, anytime.”

Plus- going in a straight line- how hard could it be? And it’s just a school car right? They are probably speed limited and not quite opened up……… Nope! Full blown open wheeled drag car experience. The last pass was 1/4mile in 7.97 crossing the line at 163mph. The 8 second ride of a life!

The invitation came through the people here at the Palm Beach International Raceway. One of the coolest things about this raceway is that they have 3 completely separate racetracks- a 2 mile road course, a great go-kart track and a beautiful ¼ mile concrete drag strip. I grew up on karting and have been in road course cars since I was 16. But I have never experienced drag racing except on TV. I have always been impressed by the size of the spectacle, and the fact that Top Fuel dragsters will do over 300 mph and need a parachute to stop. However, I never truly appreciated the acceleration, the g-forces and the whole drag racing experience. Until last night.

Here at PBIR, they have a drag racing school run by US Pro Forward Champion Nelson Hoyos. And it is run not in a dinky little school car, but his actual race car, slightly de-tuned so you can build up and get used to the kick the car gives you off the line. And ‘kick’ is a very big understatement. When the light goes green, it is like have 10 NFL lineman charge into your back at full speed and push you so hard it is difficult to catch your breath. But Nelson doesn’t start you at the OMG launch. To get me comfortable in the car and the differences with my Firestone Indy Lights car, he showed me all the controls, fired it up, and had me drive around the paddock a bit. Then he had me practice lining up on a line, reversing, and then gave me a taste of the launch button (I keep using 'launch' because it is not like starting a car, more like launching a rocket!). The first time I did it in the parking lot, I only had about 2000RPM when I let go of the brake button. WHOA! I couldn’t even imagine what 8000RPM was going to feel like. I was going to have to remember to keep my head back.

So then it was back to the trailer, get my helmet, HANS, and gloves on before trundling up into the staging lanes. There were probably about 100 street and drag cars for Wild Wednesdays drag night. Nelson and I continued to talk about how it was going to work, that on the first pass he wanted me to hold the car about 3500RPM, and lift off after about 300 feet just to get a feeling for the shot off the line. So pull up the water box, do a burnout to get some temperature in the very wide rear Goodyear tires, and then pull up to the line. Hit the pre-stage timing beam, then the staged beam, bring the revs up, the lights on the ‘tree’ (where the yellow and green lights are) go on, hits the bottom green light, finger off the brake button then full throttle…..AND HOLD ON!!!! Wow! That first impression still gives me an adrenaline rush.

Nelson asks back at the trailer, “What did you think of that?”

“I want more!!!! Can we go full power yet?”

“Haha, awesome! Let’s turn it up some and have you run the 1/8mile. Some people come off the line and there’s a wiggle- others come off straight and fly down the track. You kept it nice and straight so we are ready to bring the speed up and the time down.”

He tweaks the electronics in the cockpit and then it’s back to waiting in the staging lanes. Nelson explains to me that the biggest issue with drag racing is that it is ‘hurry up…and wait!’ We are talking about the differences in sight pictures from ‘his’ cockpit and ‘mine.’ The drag car doesn’t have mirrors! And the front tires are sooooo far in front of me. It is good because it helps you look a long ways down the track. He explains to me that this time he wants me to go full throttle and let the electronics keep the engine at the right RPM, when the light goes green, let off the button, make very small corrections to keep it straight, keep it lit until the 1/8 mile……oh yeah and HOLD ON TIGHT! WOW! It really took off! My mind was starting to catch up with my body when I went past the 1/8mile marker. I knew he wanted me to let off and coast through the ¼ mile, but I went a little ways past as I was having too much fun. The sensation after you let off the gas is incredible. You go from having this raging dragon roaring behind your head to floating down this super smooth concrete track with only the wind and your thoughts keeping you company. I hear at the end of the night that even though I let off the gas at the 1/8 mile, I still ran the ¼ mile in under 10 seconds. A very impressive time!

After a few words on the loudspeaker system with the announcer about my racing, the difference to the drag strip and how much fun I was having, it was back into my helmet, into the car and prepping for run three. A full ¼ mile with the taps fully open and the car less de-tuned. Nelson leans into the cockpit and says “This time, I am going to give you full revs for a full pass, full throttle, light goes green, off the button, keep it straight, focus on the timing billboard to shut it down…..Oh yeah and…”

“I know, I know, HOLD ON!”

“Hahaha, no. Enjoy!”

And enjoy I did. A bit longer burn-out out of the water box for a little more tire temperature. Full revs, full throttle, yellow lights, green light, thumb of the brake button. Queue NFL lineman. I have driven race cars all over the world. I have down 0-60mph in less than 3 seconds. I have raced through city streets, by harbors with huge yachts, dealt with snow at the edge of the racetrack, overflowing drain grates and so many weather conditions. Nothing felt like the acceleration for those 7.97 seconds. I have never had a car push me so hard for sooooo long. I passed the finish line and as the car slowed (and I realized how much adrenaline was in my system) I truly understood drag racing. The rush is just like running the perfect line through a set of corners. Like winning. Just in less than 8 seconds.

I have to say the biggest thank you to Nelson Hoyos. His drag racing school, Driven 2 Win, is an awesome experience for anyone who wants a taste of real drag racing. Nelson is a perfect instructor: years of experience, lots of victories, enthusiastic and all around great guy! He builds up to speed perfectly and makes sure you are comfortable with everything each step of the way.

Here’s the video of my last pass:

Monday, April 6, 2009

TV Coverage Reminder

A reminder that the Firestone Indy Lights races from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast on Versus TV today (Monday April 6th) at 6PM Eastern time (3PM Pacific).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Heading Home after Sunday’s Race

I am heading down the road back towards Palm Beach and thought I would take the opportunity of a 4 hour drive to update everyone on my Sunday. I had race 2 this morning at about 10 AM and then hung out at the track to watch the Indy Car race.

I started the race in 18th after qualifying yesterday morning. We had made some major changes to the car for yesterday’s race and it made a big difference. Overnight we had the chance to tune the car into the sweet spot a bit more. Going into the race, I was pretty sure it was going to be more disrupted and have more action than race 1. And boy was I right! I had a good start and avoided the first spinning car in turn 1. Then as I got to the apex, I got tapped in the right rear- not hard enough to spin me, but I had to catch the car. That in turn gave me a bit of a gap to the group of cars in front of me which was a good thing when I got to turn 4 (the next big braking zone and passing opportunity). By the time I started braking, there was a car wedged into the tire wall. I finished the first lap up two spots in 16th. Then after a lengthy full course yellow to pick up the pieces of the first lap, I continued to move up, passing 2006 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham, Stefan Wilson, Gustavo Yacaman, James Davison, Richard Philippe, J.R. Hildebrand and Ana Beatriz. A couple of those passes entailed me threading the needle through the other cars spinning across the track in front of me. One of those incidents was my teammate Jay Howard missing a crash between J.R. Hildebrand and Ana Beatriz. To avoid the incident, Jay had to go around the outside where it was really dirty and slippery. By the time I got there, the inside was clear and so I went past all three of them on the inside and up to 7th. There was a full course yellow that dragged on until there was only a three lap sprint to the checkered. I didn’t get the best restart, but managed to hold onto my 7th place.

I was really really happy with the result especially after the qualifying. The team made huge progress during the weekend. I know that when we unload for Long Beach, we will be a lot closer to the pace and a lot more experienced. I can’t wait for my ‘home’ race!

As a TV reminder, the St. Pete races will be broadcast tomorrow, April 6th on Versus TV at 6PM EST (3PM Pacific).
Edit on Thursday April 9th: Here's a photo of me in the car on the drive home after I had finished writing the blog. I am not sure what is scarier- how deep my sleep was to not realize this photo was being taken or that the team manager took this photo when he should have been focused on driving!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Top 10 in Race 1

I had a very busy Saturday. I had qualifying for Race 2 this morning, and then the hour long Race 1 this afternoon. I am pretty tired now, but in general I feel good about everything.

First- Qualifying. I still had limited laps around the track in the dry and went out straight away to try and get a good time on the board. There was a yellow after about 5 laps, so we put another set of new tires on the car. That way, we would have some scrubbed tires ready to go for the race start. I was just getting to the point where the tires give me that 'new tire extra grip' when there was another yellow flag to end the session. My time only put me 9th in my group, meaning I will start 18th for tomorrow's race. I had a small part in causing the final yellow as I passed a car on my quickest lap. He was trying to keep up with me when, 3 corners after I passed him, he spun and parked the car in the tire wall. Oops.

So on to Race 1. I started 12th from yesterday's qualifying and we had made some serious changes to the car from the morning. I was pretty hopeful of a good strong showing. And that we did. I was very careful into Turn 1 on the rolling start (my first in 5 years) and lost about 3 positions. I passed a car back into Turn 4 on the opening lap and from there worked on catching the train of cars ahead of me. It didn't take me long to be right behind them and stuck. I was quicker, but couldn't get out of the last corner quite well enough to get a run on them. Finally, the car ahead of me had a small moment through the last corner and I went laaaaaaate on the brakes into 1 and passed him on the inside. It took me less than a lap to catch up to the next car in line and I was stuck again. He wouldn't make a mistake and even on the two yellow flag restarts, I couldn't find a way past. I ended up 10th which is very respectable with my limited track time and the new team. (Picture Note: Your helmet definitely stays cleaner when you are out in front!!!)

I said coming into the weekend that I would be happy with two finishes and a top-10 in one of them. We have made some more improvements and I am sure that there will be more chaos in tomorrow's race. So I will have to be smart, look plenty far ahead and take good opportunities to pass when I can.

On another note, my blood glucose numbers were pretty close all day. I was a little lower than I wanted 45 minutes before the race so I had some Gatorade, a banana, and a Clif bar. Checked just before I got in the car and I was good to go!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Night at St. Pete

A very short one as it is almost 10:30 and so very much past my bedtime!

Practice this morning didn't go to plan as Mother Nature wreaked havoc on us. We were all ready to go and then about an hour before the start, there was a torrential downpour (as it can only seem to do in Florida!). So we ran the whole session on wet tires. I ended the session in 17th- mainly because clear laps were almost impossible and I was learning the track, the tires, the car in the wet. There were quite a few things not going my way! But still, we learned somethings for the next time it's wet and I was pretty comfortable with how the circuit was laid out.

Then came qualifying and I was in the second of the two 20 minute sessions. I watched the first group run the whole time without a hiccup. Then it was our turn. On the out lap, Richard Philippe put it into the tires to bring out the first of three full course yellows. So out of the 20 minute session, I got about 5 hot laps and none that weren't disturbed by traffic- one way or another. Couple that with learning the track in the dry and on my fastest lap I had to pass another car which cost me .25 of a second, and I am very happy to have been 6th in my group (out of 14 cars). This means I will start on row 6 in 12th spot. From there though, with a smart race and good passing, I can easily finish in the top 6-8.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow morning's qualifying session. I know the track a bit more now and I hope we get some clean laps!

Also, had a photo shoot in my new suit today for a sponsor that will launch at Long Beach. Then this evening I had dinner with said sponsors and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We ate at a restaurant right by the harbor and had some really neat conversation.

Time for a good night's sleep and go quick tomorrow!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg

Thursday Night

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My first post from the racetrack. Well technically the hotel at the race.... But still! I had a walk around the circuit with my engineer. It is really neat and has a bit of everything. The south end is on a runway so it is wide open and has some runoff where the north end is through the downtown streets so it is much tighter with less room for error. It also runs right along a harbor with some yachts moored- very Monaco GP. I think that the key to a good lap time is going to be a consistent stable car that you can trust. Then you can really build into the braking zones and get the rolling speeds up. Should be a lot of fun!

You can catch my shorter updates from my Twitter. I may end up doing more updates on there from my iPhone as I am not sure how I am going to get online at the track. The updates here will probably be nightly recaps from the day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Season Preview plus other stuff

A photo of the car being loaded onto the transporter at Sebring Raceway in Florida. We had just finished our last pre-season test, run lots of miles in hot conditions, made progress with the set up and pumped up for the first race. Here is the press release.

Just got some photos through of my new suit all embroidered and it looks fantastic. I have to really tip my hat to the guys at Sparco USA. I was changing designs up until past the last minute and yet they made it all happen and it looks perfect! I can't wait to get to the track, pick it up and look good while I am going fast. (I can already hear the mockery coming from my friends for that comment...haha!)

I head up to the track at St. Pete tomorrow. It's about a 4 hour drive and I plan on napping most of the way. I have tried to have a couple of lower key days to rest, recover and mentally prepare for the race weekend. There is a chance of some thunderstorms this weekend which would make a tough circuit even more challenging. The tough part about street circuits in the rain is that the walls, the changing road surfaces, paint in crosswalks, manhole covers added to the fact that the streets are generally low grip creates quite a driving challenge. Still, I relish the opportunity!

I will try to put short blogs up throughout the weekend with updates on my progress and how I am feeling about everything.

And finally, I read Kerri Sparling's diabetes blog religiously for its information, humor and insight. Now I am lucky enough to have her interview me. The resultant blog post is here.

See you at the track!!