The Brickyard. What an iconic track filled with such rich history. Every time I come to this place I think about all those incredible drivers who have preceded me. It truly is such a humbling place to be and one that I cherish each time I drive it.
The road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fun blend of fast and challenging corners, as well as being a blast to drive.
Here’s a quick rundown of a lap around the road course. Turn 1 you come into going a little over 140mph. It’s a heavy brake zone with pressures hitting 1000psi before turning into the 90 degree left hander. You bring the car over quickly from left to right to set up a good shot through the left hander of turn 2. Turn 3 is a gradual right that is flat out and then you approach the high spend turn 4. After tracking out left its quick dab of the brakes with some patience off throttle before being flat out at apex and down into the esses of turns 5 and 6. Then it’s down the Hulman Straight to set up another heavy brake zone for the left hander of 7. On the exit you need to kick left a bit to make sure you have a good angle for the full throttle right turn of 8. You sacrifice 8 a bit to ensure you get the left of 9 just right. A light brake here and make sure you don’t track out too far otherwise you mess up your entry into 10, which is critical as you come onto the oval (actually turn 2, but opposite direction). Another harder brake zone for the right at 12 followed by another light dab of the brakes into 13. This is yet another corner critical for getting a good shot out of. You need to be patient before getting back to power so that when you do go to throttle you can be full for the run up to 14 which leads back onto the oval for the front straight.
We had a lot of track time at Indy, and the more the better for me, since I love being in the car and seat time is king.
Wednesday was a test day and Thursday we had two practice sessions. The days were filled with making sure we had the optimal setup going into qualifying. I was very happy with my progress on those days. We knew the track would be quick and that the times would be close. I was happy to close the gap to the leader to 1.8 seconds and then the last practice session I was within 1.5 seconds, my closest yet this year.
I had been challenged in a couple of sections in the track. The first part was getting a good run off of turn 2 and by changing the way I put the car in there by getting a bit more roll (the side to side motion from left to right) in the car it was able to turn in better. I had also been having a slight lift off throttle and was creating a bad understeer for myself on the exit. By waiting for the understeer to come naturally and then lift it, allowed me to gain a few tenths.
Turn 4 I needed to make sure I tracked out to driver left all the way to set up a better turn in point. My biggest gains were in the very tricky complex of turns 7, 8, 9 & 10. By changing brake and throttle points to about 30 feet sooner I was about to roll more speed through the corners and most importantly get to power sooner on exits. Turn 13 proved to be my nemesis but that too began to improve.
It’s incredible the amount of work we put in by reviewing hours of video and data to scrutinize every second and every lap to see where we are losing time to our teammates. It is such a valuable tool to be able to use this information to help make us better drivers. Most people don’t realize the amount of time that we spend out of the car trying to find extra tenths here and there to go faster.
Friday morning brought about qualifying, I had a pretty good run, but I was a little bit off and my inconsistency hurt me with my result. I ended up qualifying P 14. I thought I would be a bit more mid pack than that and was a little disappointed. I knew the mistakes I had made and would have to put it behind me quickly, which I did as we had our first race a little after midday.
The sun was beaming down on the track giving a lot of warmth. We hopped in our cars and rolled to pre-grid before heading out behind the pace car for our formation lap. As we approached turn 12 the field formed up in position and as we exited 14 we saw the green. I had a pretty decent start and upon reaching the brake zone of turn 1 I had managed to find a gap between a couple of cars. I promptly took the spot and outbroke two of my competitors to gain the positions. I had one more I took going into 1 and then all of a sudden there was a car from further up the field who had spun. I was sandwiched and couldn’t go left. I swung out to the right but had another car beside me. I swerved to avoid the spun car but ended up clipping his rear end with considerable force. I ripped his rear wing right off. I kept going but by this point I was at the rear of the field. Now my attention had to turn to see how damaged my car was. I looked to see that my front wing was somehow miraculously still in tact and appeared to be clean. I kept driving and to my surprise was amazed that the car was in fine form. I had been incredibly fortuitous to come away from the incident unscathed. I guess my left front tire had hit his car at the perfect angle to not cause damage. Phew.
We went under safety car and I closed up to the field before the restart, which was not my best, I missed the jump and gapped myself slightly. I managed to quickly close the pack down and had some great battling for position. For the latter part of the race I struggled to get past a competitor despite numerous attempts. I kept closing and out braking him in the 1 and 7 but couldn’t find a way past. After reviewing video I realized I needed to do a much better job of boxing him out when I did pull up beside him in the brake zones. Lesson learned. I finished P12. I was very happy with my race and how I had driven, yet in the back of my head I couldn’t help but think what the outcome would have been after my great start and if I hadn’t clipped the spun car.
The next day, Saturday we had our second race. I was starting P15 and was anxiously awaiting the race to keep up with the work and progress I had been making. On the grid we were given the wonderful command, “start your engines.” I fired up and noticed that there was an error with the dash on my wheel. My engineer sprinted over to reset the system a few times but to no avail. I was going to be driving “blind.” I would have no lap counter, lap times, gear indicator no rpm lights etc. I was going to have to know my gear points based on sound and visually. Another challenge but one I wasn’t fazed by at all. I knew what I had to do.
I didn’t have the start I wanted but luckily the field had jumped the green flag and the start was waved off. On the second time by to green the field got it right and we were racing. I’d had a better start but couldn’t make up many positions. I was tight with the pack and made a great pass outbraking someone going into turn 7. It ended up being a fairly dry race for me as a couple of mistakes opened a gap to the field and I ended up pretty much racing on my own as I couldn’t close the gap. Racing by oneself is another challenge as you don’t have anyone to follow and battle with. It is quite easy to lose focus and towards the end of the race I certainly did.
I got quite confused as I rounded turn 10 and was shown a white flag and then again at turn 12. I thought I had missed the white flag, which signals one lap to go in the race, and the checkered flag. I came through turn 12 and noticed another car driving into the pits. I thought, oh well, race must be over and followed into the pits as well.
As I rounded the pit wall I heard cars drive past on the front straight and quickly realized I had made a massive mistake. The race was still on!!! The car I was following had a puncture. I had come into the pits a lap early. I was furious. I had thrown away a great result, I’d been running in P11 and because of my error I finished P15. I was devastated.
I went back to the trailer and struggled trying to calm down and forgive myself for my blunder. It took a while but eventually I was able to breathe again. This one is definitely going to sting for a while, but I can guarantee that I will never make that mistake again. The white flags I had been shown were to let me know that there was an injured car going slowly ahead of me. That was a good brain blank to have at that point in the race to forget the flags – DOH.
Shortly after the blunder we had the Indy Fan Tweet Up by the famous pagoda of IMS. I couldn’t believe how many fans had come out; it was awesome and made me think just how special this place really is. The fans here love racing and it is clearly evident. During the question period someone asked what the highs and lows are like in racing. I decided to own my mistake and shared it with everyone while it was still so fresh. It actually felt better sharing what had happened and helped me in my recovery from it.
All in all it was a great weekend and one that I am proud of despite what happened. I had raced hard and had some great battles on a level that I hadn’t had before in my short career. I had raced and succeeded on the most famous racetrack in the world.
Until next time, and once again thanks for reading.
If anyone has any questions they’d like to ask or comments about the blog feel free to get in touch with me
Facebook: James Dayson Racing