It didn't turn out the way we expected, but the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix was still a hit as far as I'm concerned.
As you probably saw, we had some mechanical issues during the race, and the No. 27 Buffalo Wild Wings Dallara/Honda finished 23rd. The problem was a shock absorber on the front that began to unwind from the beating it was taking.
When that happens, the car starts to bottom out. That's what you saw when a succession of cars started passing me fairly early in the race. The car was scraping on the street with each bump, and I couldn't control it. I kept falling farther and farther back. Essentially, the car was undrivable.
So we decided to bring it into the pits, and the Andretti Autosport guys did a sensational job of replacing the shock and getting me back out on the track. By that time, though, we were so far behind that attempting to make up any ground was pointless. Plus the car still wasn't handling well, so racing with anyone wasn't in the cards.
Basically at that point we were just trying to stay out of people's way. On restarts, I just laid back and didn't try to pass people. The car just wasn't quick. Sometimes that happens. It's not anybody's fault. The car just isn't working properly. When that happens, the best strategy is just to hang back and not create any more problems and score whatever points you can.
I can't begin to describe how difficult it was to compete in this race. Some people might argue that we're not professional athletes, but if they were to drive one of these cars and experience the G-forces and bumps and physical stress and heat, they'd change their tune. All of us were wiped out at the end of 75 laps. Trust me, it was taxing.
Congratulations to Will Power on his well-deserved victory. It tightened the race for the championship, as he's now just five points behind Dario Franchitti with just three races remaining in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season. It's good for all of us, because drama draws attention to our series. Both of them are racing very well this season, so the last three races will be very entertaining.
But what really impressed me this weekend were the people of Baltimore. They came out in droves to see the first event, and they were enthusiastic and polite and fun to meet. We race in front of huge crowds -- 300,000 at the Indianapolis 500 -- but the Baltimore crowd was truly remarkable, especially for a first-time event.
They definitely got the news out here that we were coming, because the place was sold out. All of the drivers were talking about the crowd. Sometimes new venues -- especially street races -- are difficult propositions because of what it takes to put them on. There's the prospect of blocking off major streets for a weekend, moving in concrete walls and fencing, and basically shutting down a large part of downtown areas for several days. It's a logistical nightmare.
But here, in spite of an earthquake and hurricane in the preceding days, people managed to put it all together. All of the parts and pieces were in place, and it was a very well-done effort, especially for a first-year street race. My hat is off to the people of Baltimore. What an amazing city with such a can-do spirit. I can't wait to get back here next year and do it again.
But next time, I vow to finish better than I did today.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun