What a whirlwind fortnight it’s been since Mount Panorama – it feels like two months ago, not two weeks!
There’s a bit to get through – so I’ll briefly touch on a few of the most notable things.
***The IndyCar debut.
I walk away from St Pete disappointed with how it finished, and that’s my overriding emotion – but I’m still enormously proud of how the entire week went with my first run in the series.
It was as eye-opening and daunting as you could expect – my first run in the car since February, my first run in the car on a street circuit, and my first crack at a race.
I was pleased with how comfortable I felt in the car straight away – and for that, I need to thank everyone at Team Penske who are so accommodating and couldn’t have made my experience any better.
We showed good pace in the practice session, but then missed my chance in qualifying which had us starting down the back.
We opted for a three-stop strategy in the race – which meant we could run at maximum pace and didn’t have to worry about fuel saving. The team wanted to keep me away from traffic – just so I could clock as many laps in clear air as possible.
It was all going so well – I’d passed four cars – and had worked my way into a decent position and I felt comfortable. Then the cautions came, and I lost momentum – and then the next caution was for me.
I made an error on the third restart at the first turn – just a rookie on cold tyres!
Unfortunately, it wrecked my race and impacted Rinus VeeKay as well – so I was really bummed for making a simple error.
But overall the team was optimistic about what we were able to achieve which gives me great confidence ahead of 2021.
Which leads to my next point.
***The IndyCar announcement.
It came on the Friday in Florida – which caught everyone by surprise, even me.
We were working towards going full time in IndyCar – but even I wasn’t sure when it was going to be announced.
At the end of the day, it’s a dream opportunity for me and awesome to be going racing in the US. I’m eternally grateful to Roger Penske and Tim Cindric for believing in me to put this program in place.
And I’m thrilled that my wife Karly can be closer to her family.
I’ve had the greatest experience of my life racing for DJR Team Penske in Australia – and I’m so pleased that Dick Johnson and Ryan Story are racing on in 2021 – it will be really cool to see DJR cars back on the track.
For sure I’m sad to be leaving Australia and leaving my team and my crew after the success we’ve had across the past three seasons, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I have to grab with both hands.
Which leads to the last couple of days.
***The Indianapolis experience.
So after St Pete we flew back to Charlotte to prepare to go to the Brickyard – which is where I write this from.
We had our Rookie Orientation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which all first-timers must complete before being permitted to run in the Indy 500.
The good news – we passed, and I’ve been given the all-clear to run in the 500 next May!
How cool is that – the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!
I had to show we could run consistently at set speeds across the day – with 10 laps between 205-210 miles an hour, then 15 laps between 210-215 miles, and then 15 laps over 215 miles.
It’s seriously quick FYI!
All in all it was an incredible experience – and again I have to thank the Penske crew who were so professional to make me feel so comfortable in the car.
After about 40 laps we were able to go flat through the corners which is just phenomenal. I can’t even compute yet the sensation of going that fast. But I can’t wait to get back here in a few months and do it with everyone else!
For now, our off-season testing will continue – we’ve got tests at road courses and more ovals to come which is so reassuring for me, the team wants me to be as comfortable as possible when the 2021 season starts in March.
In closing – I just want to say how shattered I am to hear the news today that the Adelaide 500 will be no more. For me, it’s the best street track we go to in Supercars, and I’m shocked and to be honest, can’t believe the decision by the South Australian Government.
Some of my greatest racing memories are at that place – winning the thing, and even finishing second in the Volvo. So I’m bummed for everyone with that call.
And I just want to give a shout out to my good mate, Jack Riewoldt, after his third premiership on the weekend in the AFL. I can’t tell you the nerves I had on the other side of the world watching that final quarter from Florida with the game in the balance.
But the Tigers now have a dynasty on their hands – which is really cool for Jack and my dear friend Emma Murray – who works so closely with the club.
Hopefully, Jack sobers up soon and we can do a Balls and Bumpers podcast!
Take care everyone. Talk soon.