Danica's
Diary
 

June 20th After a few days off, I am reflecting back on the Watkins Glen race...

After Indy, and after the awards banquet, I rode to The Glen race in my motorhome with my family and Paul, it was kind of relaxing. When we got to the Glen on wed. it was so nice out, hot but not muggy. I thought this will be nice for the fans and the race. I woke up the next morning, WOW what a chance, cold and riany!

We as a team, RLR, have been really busy trying to get ready for this race and the next week at Texas, as we are goinjg to switch to the Dallara Chassis for Texas. The guys are very tired, and a bit overworked. I was trying to stay really focused this weekend as the road races have been my trouble area. Friday we open up with a 2-hour test session to seperate the 2 groups, but ended up 14th, and the split ws top 10. I was a bit disappointed the car seemed ok. I always seem to have understeer on all the road courses, and I lose too much time in the slower corners, frustrating. My splits on the faster corners are the same as everyones, we are a bit slower in the straights, but we know that, as we are trying to get the understeer out, by adding front wing for the slower corners,.

We praacticed in the afternoon on Friday, the slower group went first, I was going pretty good up to 3-4th in the group. We made a spring change to try and help the understeer. The change ws for the worse, and it was too late to change the other way so we ended up 5th in the group. After the combined 2 grups I was 15th, but I felt if we made the right changes I could move up a few spots.

AT> MORNING as I woke up it was raining really hard, and boy was it cold too. The temp outside was 46, you could see your breath! We were supposed to have a open practice in the morning, but it was so cloudy, and overcast, the emergency helicopter could not leave. So we could not pracatice, it is a league rule that there must be a helicopter operating at all times we are on track. As afternoon qualifying was getting closer, it was raining more too. We were going to have a 2-lap qual. session to set the field, I was hoping for a good lap in the rain and move up into the top 10. I feel pretty good in the rain, as I was in England for a few years racing in the rain all the time. It was announced that the 2 lap qual. was canceled, and we would have another practice session, for 1 hour. They would take the 2 days practice times, and start the race in the practice order. The session was delayed, and I guess that the IRL didn't have enough time to do all the qualifications in 1 hour. Oh I almost forgot, we did havea delay because of the legal battle in the Grand Am series, wanting to allow a 17-year old kid race in the series. In case your didn't know, any IRL race weekend cannot have a minor, under 18, race on that weekend due to the PenskeMarlboro agreement. I think someone thought they could fight the league rule, they lost!

The practice sesion was really bad for us, as the understeer got worse under the rain conditions, I need slow speed grip, and we can't find it. They combined the 2 practice session times, and we ended up 15 still.

Race morning, still raining!! (and colder, too)> The weather was the main topic, and we didn't know what tires to use until race time. I was loking at the weather, and it looed like it may clear up. I knew the main thing as giong to be able to SEE, with all the cars in front of me, and the spray from the rain tires, it is blinding. I chose to ue a smoked cisior on my helmet, that I had been using all weekend, and it had not fogged up yet. I had a clear shield out, but it was not the twin thermopane style, I didn't need any gogging in the race for sure.

The race started out on rain tires, and it was very cold, did I say cold again? I was running in the same position as I started, then passed sharp for aostion. The rck was getting dry in a places, and yingfast. On our fist pit so, I gt ew slick tiresI think a fw pittdearly for lic and t as working for them. Let me tell you it was darn slippery on slicks, and very hard to drive. Las year we had traction control, that would have helped, but we have NO traction control this year (saving in the motor costs they say). I radioedback and said just, hoslippery it was, but I was hoping for a few yellows, but Idin't want to be the yellow. It was ryingout mornd moe, but at th bottom of the track, in t boot (ame of the aon the track) it was still wet. After ew more yellows for spins, it wa o one of the retarts that Cheever hit my RR tre as we com ntothe start straight away. There was no room for him under me at that time, plus it was WET below me.

 

I don't know what he was thinking, but never the less I was spun out sitting on the wall looking at my front wing all torn up. The car was running and I was right in front of the pits, so I drove right onto the pits. I radied that I had damage. Ray wnated to assess the damage as I came in, and then go back out and change it on the next lap. As I stopped for damage control, the team through they could change the front wing in time to keep us on the lead lap. Well we ended up losing a lap in the pits for repairs. I was just in a game of survival at this point, I was just going to finish and see where I ended up. Later in the race for another yellow, I had cycled back to the front, and just as the leaders pitting I stayed out, and got my lap back on a drie around. COOL I was back in business, I was off on my pit winodws, but with all the yellows we had a chance. With about 12 laps to go, I radioed in ta it was raining on the far end of the trakc, I was in the back, so I called "PIT FOR RAINS". We did, and the next lap everyone else did as well, but the top 4 guys didn't! Yellow glag again, and with only 3 laps to go on the restart, I thought this will be wild, lets make up a few positons, at the time I ws 10th. ON the restart it was helter skelter, at the bus stop area, cars every where trying to paa, I laid back and waited for a wrecik. I was safe so I started to pass a few guys, and moved up to 8th at the end, heck I was right behind Helio at the end, and he was the opole sitter. Not a bad finish, but wihtou the spin I think we would have been on the top 5, as that was the group I was running with before he spin. Good solid finish for the team. It was starting to rain more now, and it was still cold! One week ago we were in Indy, and it was 92, now

May 28th Well, the weather was again the story at Indy, but it wasn't about the rain, it was HOT!! The morning of the race is always nerve racking, and I was very, very nervous. I didn't fall asleep very easily, but I did sleep until 7:00 am, that's late for me.

The race day schedule is very compact with many sponsors to see, and yet we have to meet with the team and talk about strategy. All 3 drivers, all the engineers, and even Mr. Rahal, all sit down and talk about all the possible ideas. We kind of knew we would have to pit early and often so we based our strategy on that. My engineer Ray and I decided on running a low downforce set up, so we could keep pace, and hopefully catch a few yellows. I knew the car was going to have some oversteet, but I was ready and willing to stay up front all race, no matter what it took!

The pre-race festivities is what the Indy 500 is all about. Unless you have been there, it is hard to explain the experience. It is just an awesome feeling. I don't know how anyone cannot be pumped up just to be at the race! It was nice to see Dave Letterman again. He is such a race fan. He always makes you feel special. He is simply a great guy, and funny too in real life. He even gets goose bumps, he says, just being there! I can honestly say that when they announce your name, and as you walk out and hear and SEE all the fans, yelling and cheering, it is the best minutes of your life. It is AWESOME, and even breath taking. I was pumped to get racing. I had a good feeling about this race, and so did a lot of the team members too.

As you sit there in your car, and hear Jim Neibors sings, and see the jets, you know its time to go racing. As we get closer to hearing "Lady and Gentlemen, START your engines," I noticed that everything got very calm and quiet. I had just tuned everything out and I knew I was ready. You will have to bear with me talking about the pre-race. It is a lot of the 500. It really sets the tone, and means a lot to me. Sorry about rambling.

The race!!!

Starting where we did, 10th, I just wanted to keep the leaders in site at the start. GREEN flag! As I went into turn 1, the car was not stable yet, so I had to back off. The temps were not up yet, and I know this is a long race with a few yellows, and I didn't want to be that first yellow. As we settled into the race, I was about 12 or 13th. We ran there for a few laps, as we came up to lapped traffic, I misjudged a pass and got passed by a few guys. I knew then that the race was going to be harder than I thought. The cars are so equal in straight line speed that you need to really time your passes, and not lose momentum. To do that, sometimes you need to back off in the straights as you catch the slower cars, and get a run through the corners so you are faster in the straights. Turning was going to be everything in passing. As we got to lap 25 or so, the car felt really strong. I was moving up through the field when our first pit stop was needed. Our car setup was wearing out the right rear time faster than others. I had about 2" of cord showing on the first stop, and I can tell you it's not very fun driving flat out with the white showing in your mirror. But we had to keep up. The second set of tires worked great with our set up. I was flying!!! I came across the radio and told the team "we have a chance to win this thing", and I really thought we could at that point. I was catching the leaders, and passing a lot of cars. I think I was up to 5th and moving forward. I was having so much fun, and getting my timing down. The car was great, and I felt fine too. The heat really was no issue to me, I was fine.

Lap 70 or so, we were just cruising and keeping the leaders in sight. The car felt good and the second set of tires looked really good. Next thing I know is Ray telling me we are half way, lap 100. I thought this race is going fast!!! Last year when I heard we were half way, I thought, holy crap, this is a long race. What a difference a year makes!! I noticed that we were going to have to pit at least 5 laps before the leaders and I was hoping that we could catch a few yellows like last year. I guess at this point I was in a zone. I was able to think about all the scenarios that could take place in the last half of the race. We were running in the top 6-8 at this point, and we were still on the lead lap. In fact, only 8 cars were still on the lead lap. I guess Dan Weldon was flying earlier in the race, lapping all but eight cars. But I was running the same lap times as he was then, so he couldn't catch me.

Lap 150. We knew we could only get 25 laps max on our car set up, so we decided to run a rich fuel mixture, which means full horse power. We can change the setting from 1-7, depending on your situation. Slot 1 is full rich, the fastest. Sly 7 is the leanest and slower. You can estimate about 5 hp per setting we are told. Full rich was keeping us right there, and I was able to pass Michael and Marco on the same lap. I was catching the leaders!!! Ray called for a pit stop as we came into the pits. I was hoping for no yellow flags. But as my month has gone on yellows (read my earlier journal) sure enough YELLOW flag. Al Unser Jr. had hit the wall. Dammit! I had just passed him too!! I thought we lost a lap for sure, and we did. When I came out, we were in the back of the pack. Then everyone pitted under yellow, putting us right behind the pace car, and we were going to get a wave around. YES! we get our lap back!! (wave around means that the pace car needs to pick up the leader of the race. Because we were not the leader, we got to go around the pace car and merge at the back of the pack. BUT if you get a wave around you CANNOT pit during that yellow. I didn't know that until I asked to put again for fuel, as we were the last car on the lead lap. I thought it was a good idea but was informed of the rule by my team. I told Ray on the radio that I should probably just drive the car and let him handle the race strategy decisions. On the restart, I passed Michael and was ahead of Sam, as he pitted for fuel only. I was in 6th and moving up. I passed Marco again, and was right on Dario. l I knew we couldn't go the distance, and I heard Ray call for our last pit with 21 laps to go. Guess what??, as I entered the pits YELLOW FLAG, dammit again! Same scenario, I got to get my drive around and get back on the lead lap, BUT this time I was way back, and had many lapped cars to get around before I could pass anyone for position. The more you drive the Indy 500, the more you realize that this race is based on timing of yellows, lapped cars, and a lot of LUCK! Last year we caught all the yellows we needed, and were lucky. This year was not so. I was too far back to see the action of the leaders, but I was flying and passing tons of cars. I had just caught Dario for position, but ran out of laps. As I got out of the car, I was really not tired at all. I was feeling good. The heat was not an issue to me thanks to my hubby Paul. He has me on such an awesome work out plan that it takes that element totally out of my thoughts and that means a lot to a drive. Thanks honey!

I felt that this was my best race so far in my career. I made no mistakes and the team was flawless on pit stops. We didn't have the best or faster car, but we were competitive. I really leaded a lot about this race. I just wish it was not 12 months before we can race here again. I really need to thank my team, as we were not fast all month, but working our tails off to get competitive. I am proud of them all.

In ending, The Indy 500 is so special, I am blessed to race in such a great race. I am living a dream!

To Sam Hornish, great month Sam! You deserved to win. You and Team Penske were the class of the field. We grew up together racing go-karts, and I am happy for you. Good job, and congratulations.

As I left the track, I knew that one day I will see my face on the Borg Warner trophy! I know my day will come and I will fulfill my life long dream of winning this greatest of races.

Talk to you soon, Danica

May 26th OK here is a quick update, I have a few moments to chat with you.

I hope all of you caught some of my appearances earlier this month. I made Cold Pizza, the Today show, the early show, LETTERMAN, inside edition, ESPN Hot seat, Mike and Mike, 9 donuts were good) AND A FEW MORE. LOL I was on my book tour "Danica Crossing the Line". It was a book I was asked to do last summer, and I thought it was very flattering. I didn't know that I had such a story to tell, and after I got talking to the author, I guess I did have a story to tell. I hope all of you enjoy the book, and I hope I can help someone who has any self doubt to lie your dream. I did.

Keep an eye out for my new commercial I made at ESPN, it was a funny one again, I love doing those, so much fun. It should be on for the race.

At the track. RAIN RAIN, all it did was rain the first 2 weeks we were here - It rained 18 days in a row hear in Indy. Our first few practice runs I know something was different from last year, we had an ill handling car. I asked Ray what was wrong and he commented that we had a new compound of tires, different from last year, they were a lot harder, I mean a lot harder! The car was so inconsistent, I could not keep my foot in it all the way around, the car was sliding all over. The car would understeer one corner, then oversteer the next, I was really having a hard time getting up to speed. What made it worse was the Dallara chassis, was getting around a lot faster, as they have a lot more downforce than the Panoz. We tried many different set ups, and all of them where bad. I tried keeping the guys up beat, as I knew we would get it if we had more time, as Ray always does. Thank goodness the Pole weekend was rained out, as we were needing more track time. I tried to cheer the team up on National TV with APC sports live interview on rain pole day. My husband Paul sent me a cow bell, as he know from talking to me all week, we were struggling. If you have seen the Will Farror SNL skit, with the cow ell, you will understand what I did. I was interviewed by Dr. Jerry Punch and he asked me what we needed to go faster, and I pulled out my cow bell and starting saying, "All we need is more cow bell." I guess you had to be there.

We finally got on the track for a full day on Friday. It has been one of those months as every time we seem to get on the track, Boom a yellow flag. It got to the point that I was looking for the flag as I left the pits!!! LOL, I think we counted at least 6 different times that it happened. It breaks your momentum, just as you make good gains, you sit and wait, and we were anxious to get faster!! On the Friday before the second weekend (pole weekend) the team worked their BUTTS off, we made so many changes, and most were good. I was in the car for 5 of the 6 hours we were on track. I would like to thank the team again for all their hard work, it felt good again on the track. The car was getting better all the time, but the only thing that was bothering us was we were only getting 20 laps on a set of tires. We slip so much we are burning the RR tires off the cords, I have just about all my sets of tires to the cords!!! We are hoping that the more rubber on the track on race day will help.

April 26th Hello all. I am finally home from Japan. I had a great time over in the land of the rising sun, or as I call it home of Honda. I left for Japan on April 14th with my husband Paul. I was going over early to help my sponsor Honda, and the race promote the event..long plane ride, but it was nice to sit in business class, thanks Honda. We got there on Friday and had a day to relax, and get used to.

The time change, it was 12 hours different for me, so we were a bit off! We had a nice room in downtown Tokyo, and spent the morning running the streets I try and run at least 5 miles a day, everyday. Honda picked us up along with Dan Weldon and Koske Matsura, to go to a grocery store? Go figure, and we had to race to see who could get as close to the weight of 5 helmets in there grocery cart. I lost, I was way off, bad information I blame it on. LOL - we then had a dinner to do to, and meet more sponsors. I can't believe just how nice and welcoming the whole country is, they are so nice!

I got to the race track on Wednesday afternoon, checked into the track hotel. It over looks the track and all the team owners, and drivers stay there. It is a 1 hour bus ride to the local cities, so its a lot easier. The weather was great too. Next I met with Ray, my engineer, on our game plan for the weekend. We were really good here last year, I was excited!

Thursday we had a drivers meeting, and hoped to get on the track. Finally! But it rained, so everything was pushed back for a few hours. Once the track opened around 3, they let the rookies, 3 of them, including Jeff Simmons, my new teammate take to the track for 20 minutes to get used to it, and I say to clean the track off! I was pre picked to be in the first group, again! Darn it.

At first the car seemed good, well balanced. We made a few adjustments, and picked up a bit of over steer. It seemed fast but really on the edge. As the session was winding down, I was about 6th. I stayed out until the red flag, and finished up 3rd in our group. As you may remember me saying that the first group always puts down rubber for the second group, so I figured on being around 6-10th. After the second session was over I ended up 8th, not bad considering.

Friday came around, and it looked like a all day rain, and sure enough it was (I couldn't even run!) Qualifying was rained out, so I was figuring on starting 8th, and maybe 7th because Sam Hornish had a big wreck at the end of the second session and would have to start in his back up. BUT I was wrong, the second session was cut short by 10 min, so they didn't have a equal chance in practice, so they decided to start the race by points, not good as I was 14th in pts. Oh well, if my car was good I could get there in 300 miles! Waiting for qualifying to be canceled, I went up to the Honda Collection (museum), with my family and Paul. As you walk in there was Buddy's 500 winning car, pretty cool. I had a chat with Robert Clarke from Honda, as he was walking around to kill time. I learned a lot about the museum from him. All the cars, bikes, scooters, like over 600 pieces, ALL are runners. Meaning that they all are functional and run properly, WOW that's a lot of work I said. Robert said that all the collections are checked 2 times a year, and worked on to make sure they all are running. I saw many older F1 cars, a couple of Senna's cars, pretty cool, and small too. They had a engine there that was no bigger than a milk crate - a V-6 twin turbo, used in F1 in the late 80's. The horsepower was over 900HPs, in such a small package, it is amazing what Honda can do I said! I got back from the museum, and found out that they were going to just allow final practice only, no qualifying. So I had to get into the car for open practice. Well with no qualifying, we started with a race set up, full tanks. The car had major under steer, as we over corrected from Thursday. I cranked a bunchy of cross weight into the care and it got better, but this was with full tanks too, so we didn't really know what it was like on low fuel, so we stayed out to get a read on low fuel. It got much better, but the tires were now old. So we put on new tires and filled up again, not good - we had too much under steer, and ended up 18th over all, not really very fast either. I hoped Ray could work some of his magic for the race.

Saturday, race day. It looked like a nice clear day, and it was, but cold! The track is on top of a mountain, actually 3 of them. The crowds were getting big and many in the pit area, I had a hard time walking to the garage. The fans get SO EXCISED to see us! We had meetings with Ray and the team, on a game plan. We wanted to let the field string out, and start to pick them off 1q by 1. The race started on time, but was colder than we had seen before. I had a good start, and got by Enge on the first lap. I just waited and started to gain positions one by one. I was up to 10th before the first pit stop, I was hoping to keep moving up, the car seemed ok, better than the others I had passed. After the stop I kept moving up, to 7th place, almost half way into the race. I was looking forward to getting in the lead group. I was running the same lap times as the leaders. I pitted and over shot it a bit, lost a few seconds, darn it. As I got going again, the car turned way bad. I had really had under steer, I was maxed out on my weight jackers, so all I could do was ride it out. I pitted the last time with 30 laps left hoping to get a better set of tires, but nope they were off to, I was just hanging on. On the last restart, I was hoping to pass a few more I got a good jump and was about to pass a few cars, when a car chopped me really bad and I had to lift way off and downshift into 3rd gear, or crash. I chose to finish. I tried to pass Koske for 7th but ran out of time. I finished 8th, not what I was looking for, but it is a finish I guess they say.

We had a bus ride back to Tokyo after the race, with many fun people, that's all I can say;)

I got back to LA on Monday, and all of us drivers had to go to Honda USA in LA for a appearance. Glad to be home on Tuesday night, time for some R and R. Keep looking on my site as I am off to New York for my new book tour. Hope you watch the TV and send me your input!

Talk to you soon, from INDY!

 

April 6th Hello everyone. Well the weekend ended well, but it took a lot to get there again. I go to St. Pete on Tuesday night, after the test in Homestead. I had a pre-race media deal at the Hardrock Hotel/Casino scheduled on wed. night, so we checked in to get ready. We where helping the promoter Andretti/Green and Honda promote the race with an autograph session. What a great place to stay, the people were so nice, hotel was awesome!! I just wanted to thank the people at the Hardrock, and AGR, and the great fans for there hospitality, the people were so nice.

Friday we had an open practice in the morning, the track was really slippery, like ice almost!! I had a few issues with braking, the rear of the car was really loose on entry, so it was really hard to push under braking. Braking is where you can lose or gain seconds, I was losing!! I fought it all session, so I ended up 14th in the group practice. hat means we were going to be in the first group all weekend. They split the groups by the fastest 10 going second and the slowest going out first the rest of the weekend. The first group just adds rubber the second group, which is always the fastest anyway, so I knew we were going to be seconds off from the fast/second group. Ray came up with the braking solution, and it really settled the car down, so in the second practice, I picked up 0.700 on the faster guys, so I felt a lot better. Street courses are so much different for us to run on as we only do it 1 time a year, and a lot of my competitors are street course experts, like Dario, he is SO tough on street courses, all I wanted to do was get within 1 second of him for the weekend, that would be an accomplishment for me.

Saturday, the morning session, went well, as we worked on our qualifying setups. I had a lot of understeer most of the session, so we worked on that a lot. Qualifying on Saturday, I felt I left some on the table, as we only get 1 LAP to qualify!! So in turns you always seem to be a bit cautious, but I ended up 14th again. My best start on the road/street courses.

Sunday morning warm up went well, as I got hooked up with the faster guys, Dario seemed to wait for me and show me around, WOW I learned a lot following him, he is SO fast and aggressive. I went from P14 to P9 in a few laps, and ended up 10th in the warm up!!

The race started really late in the afternoon, like 3:45. It was really hot out as well. I think it was in the 90's. All I wanted to do was finish the race and get 100 laps of practice in, as I called it. at the star. I wanted to follow Dan Wheldon, he started next to me. I did that for a few laps, and after maybe 15 laps, felt my tires get really hot and very slippery!! I radioed into Ray that I felt like I was on ICE. He assured me that the tire pressures were high and the next set would fix the problem. Where was the caution, I was thinking??? It was an all green 1st stint. I got my new tires on, buy that was better!! I think the first yellow came out after like 50 laps, so I was only in tires 15 laps old. Ray told me we were only going to do 2 stops, and he was right. Everyone in the lead group pitted on lap 55 I think. I stayed out, and so did Buddy and Herta, so I was in 3rd, hoping to get track position. I fell back to 5th on the start, as my tires were not as good as the new ones the leaders just got. I stayed there for like 20 laps. We pitted for the second and last time with 50 laps to go. I knew the leaders had to pit so I was hoping for an all green finish. I was running 9th with 10 laps to go and I knew at least 2 other people had to pit, so I was going to finished at least 7-8th. Then right in front of me, about 7 seconds ahead, Buddy and Scheckter crasher! I ended up finishing 6th! I was really happy with that, that was my goal to finish, and learn, and that's what we did...Mission accomplished!!

I had a media day on Tuesday in Indianapolis, all the national media were there for the Final 4 game. I had media starting at 9am going through 5:45pm. Many chances of clothes, suit on and off, dress clothes, casual, all in one day. I did a photo shoot for People Magazine, that was cool, so look for me in there soon!!

Wednesday, Indianapolis, I was back on the track where "Danica-Mania" started, my favorite track INDY, for an open test. COLD in the morning, it was brisk, like 39. We waited to go out until the track was warmer. The league will not allow anyone on the speedway until the surface temp is at least 55 degrees, that's the rule! I finally got out and did a few laps, what a fun place to run, I was flat on the 3rd lap, it just felt really good. We made a few runs and decided to trim out the car some. The car was close to perfect. We are down horsepower from last year, so we hoped to run in the low 220's, but man, some cars got there quick. We finished the day 4th overall, 223.789, I was happy, and I knew mine was on a clean lap, no tow. WHAT a cool place. Well I am off, ready to get home, and its been 2 weeks since I have seen home.

Next up, JAPAN. My second favorite track, great people to, real race fans!!

Talk to you soon, and if you get time, please check out my new on-line store. It's up and running.

Danica

March 27, 2006 I'm sure you've heard of the horrible news of Sunday, where my teammate Paul Dana was sent to a better place. I am dealing with this well, we all know (us drivers) that this may happen anytime we suit up and strap in. Please don't feel sorry for Paul Dana, he was doing what he LOVED doing, just like I am. Does it scare us - HECK yes, but we deal with it because of the love we have for this sport, and we know that not everyone can do this. I guess that's what makes us different. I just worry about my family, but they have assured me that they understand this is what I love doing, and that I would be unhappy if I was not racing. Life is not worth being unhappy, so please chase your dreams, like Paul Dana!!!

PLEASE say a prayer for Paul Dana's family and his wife Tony.

WOW that was not easy, but let's get to updating you on the weekend. Friday, we tested for the first time on race setups. During the off-season tests we test ALTO of different things and put them all together for the race. With the NEW rules changes this year on the super-speedways, we were a little lost. The changes give us LESS down force, AND harder tires (less grip)!! The car was a handful the first few sessions, I had both understeer and understeer from run to run!! We worked really really hard on many changes, some better some worse. I was a bit frustrated, and we ended up 14th, not good. My teammates were right there with me too. My engineer Ray Alto, and I worked long hours on finding something that would be comfortable, I was sure Ray would figure it out.

Saturday morning, work up to the singing of Happy Birthday, it was MY birthday, turned 24, wow seems like only a couple of years ago I was getting my drivers license!!!! I went out for the first practice session, early in the morning, about 110 am. The car felt better, I was a little more confident, I could keep up with cars, whereas Friday I was Soloed. We made a few spring changes and trim level adjustments, which Ray had set up, and it got better. Then we tried a ride height change, 2 flats in the rear, and 1 flat in the front (flats are the flat side of the hut on the push rod, ride height. Each flat is .040 (..040 thousands). That helped a lot, and we ended up 8th in the sessions, lots better!!

Qualifying was late on Saturday, I was one of the first few cards out, 5th. I was pretty confident in the car, but I knew I had to be flat out both laps. The car felt really good, had small understeer coming out of turn 4 on the first timed lap so I made a roll bar adjustment for the second lap, and to my surprise I was POLE!! I watched as 10 other drivers try to beat my time of about 216.972 MPH. I knew the Pensive cars would be faster, but I was glad I was faster than the Gainsay and Andretti Green cars too. The Pensive cars both were faster, shoot, so I ended up 3rd in qualifying. I was really proud of my team, and engineers, we came a LONG way from Friday's test. Race setup was going to be close to what we qualified with, so I was hoping for a good finish.

Sunday morning practice, the car was really good in the first 2 laps. I was on my 3rd lap and as I entered turn 1, I saw a car in the wall so I backed off and my spotter Eric called "go low". I made sure he was not going to slide down the track into me. Once I was sure I could clear him I hit the gas and passed him. I just missed the crash by a few seconds.

With the news happening before the race, my team owner and friend Bobby Racal decided to pull our cars from the starting field in respect to Paul Dana. I watched the race in my motor coach with my family, it was a really LONG day. I would rather drive the cars than watch it on TV, WOW is the racing close or what!!!

I would rather not talk about the crash. I am looking forward, just as I think Paul would have liked. God Speed Paul, we will miss you....now off to St. Pete!

March 25, 2006 - Danica

March 9, 2006 - Well, I just got home from a long test, and Media tour. It all started on the 27th of Feb. I was in Caliph doing a new commercial for Secret, it was a lot of fun, and I think everyone will like the humor of it. The commercial is supposed to be out in April, so keep a look out for it...

March 2, 2006 - Drivers meeting at 8:15 AM. We were introduced to the NEW TV crew and went over new rules. The head of the TV package is the same guy who did ESPN Sport Center for the last 18 years! ABC/ESPN also hired a lot of TV crew from NBC as well, so it was all very positive to us drivers that the IRR is really trying to get us out there to the main stream public. Gene Simians was there as well letting us know that he plans to lead us to the mainstream as well, he's very upbeat and excited about the year, and has some Great Ideas. I like him a lot.

March 1, 2006 - On Wed, March 1st, I flew to Miami for a 3 day test called "spring training", all the teams go to get everything hopefully ironed out with the new rules and new team members. Plus there is a full Media day for the seasons photo op's for TV and interviews with new TV personnel.

February 5, 2006 - Well, my official race season started with the 24-hours of Daytona. I received a call from Rusty Wallace asking me if I would like to run in the 24 hour race with him. I was very flattered and jumped at the opportunity. The 24-Hours is such a nostalgic race, and there is always tons of good drivers to gauge myself on, so I accepted.

We tested in the 24-hours official test the first week in Jan. and it was nice to get into a race car again, after being off for a few months, you realize just how much you miss the competition. Thanks to the Howard-Boss (Crawford Racing) race team. The team had such a great driver lineup and the team drivers (Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace) were so helpful and made the transition from open-wheel car to close-top car pretty easy. After figuring out the brake points, we were up to speed.

The week before the 24-hours race, I had a two day test at the Phoenix Raceway in my Indy Car. WOW it was fun to get going again in MY race car, the test went fairly well, my lap times where quicker than last year, but I am always looking for more SPEED. We tested for 2 days, which at Phoenix is tough, after the 2nd day, a few of the other IRL drivers and I took a private plane to Daytona, because we all had to be there in the morning for the driver's meeting at 8:30 AM.

The Daytona 24-hours race is very unique, as you usually have 304 drivers in the same car. I was glad to see that my other two teammates where short like me (Rusty is 6' tall, I am 5'2"). The other teammates where Alan McNich, a former F1 driver, and was the one guy who did ALL the testing for the Toyota F1 startup team, so needless to say, he is very good, one of the best racers in the world right now. My other teammates was Jan Lammers, who also was a former F1 racer, who now owns the A 1 Netherlands Team. Both were not a lot taller than I am so that helped.

The team we drove for was Howard-Boss Racing, which is run by Crawford Pacing, with the head guy being Max Crawford, a true honest, straight up guy, one of the few. His wife Jan is the one who does all the behind the scenes work that no one realizes until it goes wrong. She was so sweet to me, great lady. The team owner Rick Howard is one of the most genuine guys I have ever met, if you have ever met some one that you feel you have know for years, the first time you meet, THAT'S Rick just a great person.

The race started out good, as Jan took the green flag (as he has maybe 24 times before) after starting out 18th (only because we had our race setup on, where others had on special qualifying brakes, gears, setups). Jan moved up to 7-8th place before Alan got in the car. Alan after 1 hour was up in the top 5. Rusty got in the car on the 3rd hour, had a few problems and played it safe, but dropped back to 3rd. I finally got in the car in the 4th hour, (each car can only go maybe 1 hour before it needs fuel and tires) during a caution period, so I had time to set the mirrors and other stuff at a slower pace. At the green flag, I passed a few cars and settled into a pace.

You have a lap timer on your steering wheel so you know what your lap times are as you are in the car. I know that our fastest lap as a 1:46:640 set by Jan in the first stint, so that was what I wanted my gauge to stay around. I found once I cleared traffic I was running a 1:47:00. It was a great confidence booster to know that you can race as fast as anyone in the world. Both Alan and Jan are highly respected in the entire road racing world and to know that comparing apples to apples you are there.

After my 1 hour in the car, we had moved up to 6th, so I feel I had a good stint for my first time at the 24-hours of Daytona. Jan got back in the car for his 2nd hour stint, he was running 3-4th the whole way. Alan got back in the car and got up to running in the top-3, I think he even led a few laps too. Rusty got back in for his 2 hours, and as he got on the track he noticed that the car felt funny, the RR tire was loose so he had to pit. We lost the lead group, but hell this is a 24-hour race, no worries, we knew everyone was going to have trouble at some time or another. After only 1 hour in the car the team noticed that the car was over heating. Dammit we had to pit.

Being there we were when we pitted, the team decided to put me back in the car, for my 2 hours. Well the car had a few RED lights going off as I left the pits, so I knew we had a problem, so I pitted behind the wall to fix the problem. It took a while, as the team worked their asses off trying to fix the problems, but it ended up being terminal, as we call it. A blown head gasket ended our race.

I had such a great time, and it really boosted my confidence. I met some really special people that I hope can do this race again next year with. I would like to thank Rusty Wallace, for showing me that even though you may be a BIG star you can still be nice to all people, he's a great person. Thanks to the Grand Am Series for all of your help, including the France family. Thanks to the Team, Howard-Boss and Crawford Racing. Thanks to all of the guys on the team who work their asses off all the time! I would also like to thank Team Rahal/Letterman for allowing me to do this race.

Next stop for me will be a 3-4 day test in March at Homestead.



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