“Everyone wants their picture with the
Borg-Warner Trophy more than with me.
It’s way more famous than I am…”
t still feels so sweet, and I know it always
will. We’re now more than six months on
from winning the Indy 500, but it could
be six years or 60 years, it doesn’t matter.
When you win Indy, you get a feeling you’ve
done something permanent in history.
I still have so many memories of
May 26, and that’s important. When my
good friend Dan Wheldon won the
Indy 500 in 2011, he said he enjoyed
that win more than the first because, in
2005, he wasn’t prepared for the whole
rush of experiences afterward. So when it
happened for me, I made sure I noticed
and remembered everything that was
going on and everything I was feeling.
I knew how to handle it, because two of
I thought, “OK, those other guys are in
trouble next week. We are ready.”
Looking back, I know some people find
it strange how even some of the big teams
have years where they struggle at Indy,
and smaller teams are able to really come
to the front. But sometimes the more
resources you have, the more options you
have, and so the more confused you can
get. At KV Racing, we didn’t have too
much choice: we had what we had and we
needed to make it work. Quite simple.
The other thing is, because we had
focused so much on race setup, how the
car handled in traffic, how long we could
get the tires to last, we had the chance to
try the car in all the different conditions.
We’d been on track in all temperatures, all
wind directions, running in a pack of cars,
or behind just two cars, or running solo,
or running at the front of a pack, and
tried different wing angles, different gear
ratios. Basically, we covered all possible
situations we thought we may face on
race day. So that Sunday before, when we
finally also nailed down a setup that felt
comfortable and was fast, too, we felt
confident. We’d done our research.
From the seventh lap, we were in the
top five for the rest of the day, and I knew
it would be one of those races where it was
a constant battle. Every time someone
got into the lead, they couldn’t pull away.
It was obviously going down to the wire.
Just before the last restart, I knew
there was a high chance of the race
finishing under caution, because everyone
would be going for victory and there’d
probably be an error or crash that would
my best buddies, Dan and Dario Franchitti,
had won it and I’d lived the joy through
them. I also knew how much Dario had
struggled with all the official photographs
and TV and radio interviews the next day
at the track because he’d been…partying
hard the night before, let’s say! So I had
my excuses ready to not go too crazy this
year. My wife Lauren and I were up late,
but we didn’t do too much drinking.
In fact, now I think about it, the craziest
part of the whole day was the race itself,
with so many passes for the lead. I’ve
watched the race only once, when I got
home that week, and I think maybe that’s
because if I watch it again, I don’t win!
Nobody mentioned us the whole Month
of May, even though our last two results
at Indy with KV Racing had been a fourth
and a third. It was the first year, I think,
that we’d been on no one’s radar. I sort of
understood that: the car wasn’t terrible,
but it wasn’t a winner, either. We qualified
12th on Pole Day, but unless you’re among
the four or five guys who can fight for pole,
qualifying doesn’t really matter. Even before
we got to Indy, my engineer Eric Cowdin
and I didn’t think we’d really be in that fight.
So our big focus was race setup, and
for two weeks we just couldn’t nail it. Then,
the day after Pole Day, 3.30pm in Sunday
practice, we had our breakthrough.