Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday at Edmonton

Here is a quick practice results update with a little more detail than my twitter. I ended the session in P3 and was bouncing around the top 3 all session. I am really happy with the car and got out with a huge smile on my face. Edmonton is an airport circuit so it is pretty wide open, with some really tight twisty sections. Also, with the harsh northern Alberta winters, the track is a bit rougher than last year. And it was bumpy then! With a rough track like this, a bad car can make for a long weekend. But with a good car, it sure makes it fun! I finished just 0.04 off of Hinch in second and about 0.2 off of my teammate, Plowey, who was quickest. Plowey ran a set of new tires though and I have some things to work on- both in driving and with my engineer. There is definitely more to come. I can't wait until tomorrow morning's practice and then qualifying in the early afternoon.

As a quick side note (really quickly, otherwise I will be late to dinner!), the Canadian fans are awesome. Today was Friday, just practice and the stands were pretty full. There were a lot of really knowledgeable people walking around and the Indy Lights autograph session was well subscribed. It probably didn't hurt that today's weather was nearly perfect. Bring on the race weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where did 2 months go?!?!

May 25th. That was my last blog. Hmmm. Nearly two months ago..... Wait!?!?! What? 2 months? Time has just blitzed past. I am used to things moving at a high rate of speed, but these last two months have been crazy fast and busy. Well I guess that's why they have gone by quickly is because I have been crazy busy. Let's see if I can write an update on all that has gone on without having to classify it as a novel....

Freedom 100
I wanted the Win, but came away with a solid second place. I had an incredible race with Wade Cunningham and he just beat me to the win. He has raced in the Freedom 5 times and that definitely helped him. I fought as hard as I could, used all the racetrack (and then some at times) and was very happy with how my Indy weekend turned out. Plus with Wade not being a full time driver this season, it was a moral win. It also put me within 7 points of points leader JK Vernay.

After Indy, we had a test day at Mid Ohio in preparation for our race there in August. It has never been my strongest track and when I tested with Andretti there last fall, I really struggled to get the car where I wanted it. This time though, we made big strides in the car set up. Because it was a 'private' test, there wasn't official timing, but I ended up within 0.05 of the quickest car at the test, Stefan Wilson. With the a string of street and road course races coming up after the Iowas Speedway event, we were very happy to be quick on the road course test.

Iowa Speedway
Before my race in Iowa, I had a great event for my sponsor, Novo Nordisk. I went to a Minor League Baseball game to talk about diabetes, racing, and throw out the first pitch. The Clinton Lumberkings were great hosts and I managed to make the ball to home plate. I will admit I resorted to the 'skyball' to make sure I didn't one-hop it to home. It is quite a lot of pressure standing out there on the field. I guess it would be like a baseball player strapping into a race car...
Well onto the race at Iowa Speedway. And to be honest, I would rather just forget the whole weekend. In the two practice sessions, where the results don't matter at all, I was quickest and second quickest. In the two sessions that mattered: qualifying and the race, I was last! The car had a fuel pump fail in qualifying so I had to start at the back. Then in the race, I went into turn 1 on the first lap and the back of the car stepped out on me. I caught it the first time, but it stepped out again and I spun into the wall. I think it was a combination of being at the back of the pack and in dirty air and having cold tires. I was definitely trying hard to get past a couple of drivers that were a long ways of the pace before settling down to pick off the rest as I could. It was something I will definitely learn from. The next race was Watkins Glen and one of my favorite racetracks in the world!

But before I could get to the Glen for the race, I went to San Antonio TX for an ADA Expo. I was very impressed with the size of the turnout for the Expo as well as the city itself. I really enjoyed myself wandering around the Riverwalk and the older parts of town. Not to mention seeing the Alamo. (On a side not, I got my iPhone 4 that same weekend and the excitement of that might have colored my view- but only a little! And yes I love it. And no I don't have signal problems.)
After San Antonio, I flew down to Orlando for the ADA National conference and the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference. I really like both of these events because it gives me a good chance to catch up with friends from the diabetes community at the ADA. Then CWD is such an amazing conference with so many great stories and people! I had a great time at both and still managed to train almost every day to prepare for the Glen, Toronto and Edmonton.

The Glen
Watkins Glen is one of my favorite racetracks and one of my favorite places in the world. The whole of the Finger Lake district is great, the city of Corning is a lot of fun, and the racetrack itself is very special. The length, the speed, the elevation changes all combine to create a challenge for the driver, a challenge for the engineer and a great spectacle. However, once again bad luck would wreak havoc with my race. I had been in the top 5 in practice and was ready to go for qualifying. However, in qualifying I made a mistake and while trying to overtake another driver, I spun across a curb. This stalled the engine and meant I would lose my fastest lap. I still managed to put myself into the top 6. Until we looked at the bottom of the car from when I ran across the curb. The impact had broken the bottom of the engine and would mean it would have to be changed. This also meant I would have to start from the back. Because three other drivers had to do the same, I wouldn't be dead last! Then disaster struck again and half way around the parade lap for the race, the engine shut off. The safety crew towed me back to the pits and after changing the ECU, I rejoined the race- but I was 4 laps down. Because of a full course yellow, I caught the back of the field. Because I was a lapped car, I was cautious to stay out of other people's races. Halfway through the race, there was another yellow flag and the team and I decided to pit to make changes to the car and treat the race like a practice session. As the line of cars ahead of me strung out, I passed people when I was sure it wouldn't impact their race. I moved all the way up to what was 5th place on the road (even though I was 11th because of being laps down). I also posted the 4th quickest lap time, 0.2 off of the 3rd quickest time. While the result was extremely disappointing, the speed of the car was very encouraging. The two bad races in a row had dropped me from 2nd in points to 5th.

Mental Health
Because I had been on the go so much since the beginning of May really, I was looking forward to a weekend off! I was still training very intensely in the week leading up to the weekend and my body was looking forward to some time to recover as well. I went to a BBQ with some friends on Saturday and had a great time relaxing poolside. While there were a lot of racing people at the BBQ, it was definitely a mental health break. Then on the Sunday, I slept in, did some DIY, cleaned my room, watched some of the ALMS race, and then watched the Dodgers destroy the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball. A perfect Sunday that really rejuvenated me for the Canadian leg of my season- Toronto and Edmonton.

The streets of Toronto race is one of the hardest on our calendar. Especially if the weather plays a role. Last year, we had to start the race in the wet, do a pit stop and finish it in the dry. This year, the weather was extremely hot! And with how bumpy, technical and physical the track is, high heat and high humidity just make it more challenging. We had a good car in both practices and were 5th quickest in both before qualifying. Then in qualifying a bit of bad luck struck again. I was having major gearbox problems and didn't really know what gear I was going to be in going into a corner. This makes it really tough! But I told the team that I would do my best and see how we came out. I ended up doing a lap that was good for 7th, only 0.2 off of 3rd! While the result wasn't fantastic, I was extremely how well I had handled the problematic gearbox. And my last lap was going to be quicker until the gearbox auto-magically shifted for me and nearly put me into the wall! Going into the race though, I was confident I would be able to move up through the field. On the start, I passed Adrian Campos Jr. into turn 1 to move up to 6th and set off after the top 5. While I was quicker than Sebastian Saavedra ahead of me, I couldn't find a way past until a mid race yellow flag. On the restart, I set up Seb and passed him into the hard braking of turn 3. Then it was about biding my time and chasing the pack of 2-4th ahead of me. As the race moved towards it's 50 lap conclusion, James Hinchcliffe in 2nd started to struggle with his car's handling. On the last lap, he made a braking mistake into turn 3 and slid wide, Dan Clarke moved past into 2nd and Gustavo Yacaman passed him for 3rd. Then into the next braking zone, turn 5, I moved up the inside of Hinch and made the pass to come home 4th! Unfortunately, Hinch ended his race in the tires in turn 5, but after the race we both agreed it was a racing incident with no hard feelings. Which is a good thing when it comes time for our next boxing workout together!!! The 4th place finish moved me back into 3rd in points, only 7 behind Hinch. JK Vernay is still leading, 75 points ahead. But with 53 points available per weekend, and just after halfway through the season, everything is still to play for!

I am really looking forward to this weekend's race in Edmonton. I thoroughly enjoy the wide open airport track here and the fans always come out and support the race well. I got into town last night and have media commitments today and tomorrow morning before getting on track for practice Friday afternoon. Here's the weekend schedule:
Friday July 23rd- Practice 1; 1:30-2:30 PM (Mountain Time)
Saturday July 24th- Practice 2; 9:15-10:00 AM
Qualifying; 2:15-3:15 PM
Sunday July 25th- Warm-up; 9:20-9:40AM
Race (50 Laps!) 1PM (Streamed live on

I still can't believe it has been two months since my last blog. And if you have gotten this far through what has ended up being a short novel, the next ones won't be so long! I hope. :)