FRANCHITTI: THE RACE I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR
By Dario Franchitti, Boston.com Special Contributor
I’ve been writing this blog all season with an eye on one race, and now it’s finally here. I’m excited to compete this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and I’m happy to be taking you along with me.
But before we talk about this weekend, let’s talk about Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio. My teammate, Scott Dixon, ran away with the victory while I finished second, so it was a solid 1-2 finish for Team Target.
From the test session before the race at Mid-Ohio until the final lap of the race, Scott was really good. He’s been fast all season, but he’s encountered some bad luck. On Sunday, he lifted his performance to another level. He didn’t make any mistakes and for once he didn't have any bad luck. He deserved to win, and I was very happy for him.
For me, second was the best result I could have hoped for. The No. 10 car wasn’t bad, but I never could get the balance where I wanted it. To finish second was absolutely as good as it could have been, so in that sense I’m very pleased with how it turned out and very proud of the entire Target team.
As I've said before, this is very much a team sport and from the guys who build the cars and do pit stops to the engineers who come up with setups and work with the great strategists to figure out how and when to pit. They all did another amazing job at the weekend.
It also was a positive result in terms of points, as we still lead the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, increasing the lead to 62 points with six races remaining. And Scott’s win further solidified his third-place position in the championship standings.
But it was a crazy race. Looking at it from the outside, it was fairly tame. But from inside the cockpit, it was wild. It was hot and humid, so the track was slippery. There were plenty of times when I was struggling to hang on. On the last lap, I got completely sideways. It was a tough race from a driver's perspective.
But now we’re on to Loudon, which means we’re back to a short oval after three road and street-course races. I haven’t raced NHMS before in an IndyCar, but I did race NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup cars there in 2008. You might think that gives me an advantage, but it doesn’t. There’s really no comparing Indy cars and stock cars, so I’ll be coming into this race with the same unknowns everyone else will have.
If you’re looking for a good comparison to what you might see this weekend at NHMS, there's a good video posted on YouTube (also embedded at right). It’s from the 1993 New England 200, so you'll have an idea of how exciting this form of racing can be at this track.
One of the best things Loudon offers fans is the ability to see 95 percent of the track from any seat. No matter where you sit, you’ll see the action. And it’s not just the IndyCar Series on track during the weekend. You’ll see modifieds and American Canadian Tour stock cars, along with our top support series, Firestone Indy Lights. It’s a weekend-long show, starting Friday with practice, continuing Saturday with qualifying and support races, and concluding Sunday with the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225.
The first thing we’ll do when we get out there Thursday is do our best to learn the track. From there, we’ll start trying to improve the cars and get into the detail work of trying to make them faster. Scott has tested at the track, so Team Target should have a good starting base.
It’s going to be a typical short track, which means lots of compromises for drivers. We’ll have to hang on to it in places. There’s no banking, so it will be about throttle control and handling. It’s going to be a tough old place to race, and I anticipate a sensational show for fans.
This is a sport of details. The smallest things make the difference between success and failure. The fastest cars in this race will come from teams that have done the best with those details. But for the drivers, it’s going to be all about getting back on a short track and getting the bit between our teeth and going fast.
I’m looking forward to this race. It’s going to be a major challenge for all of us and great fun for the fans. I hope you’re able to join us!