Welcome back! We've been very busy today with qualifying and some appearances, but it's been a fantastic experience so far.

Qualifying went fairly well. I would have liked to have made it to the Firestone Fast Six but came up just a few tenths short in the No. 27 Buffalo Wild Wings Dallara/Honda. I screwed up my best lap going into the chicane in the second round of qualifying, so we'll start eighth in Sunday's race.


Up until that point, I thought we had a shot to get to the final round, where the top six cars battle it out for the pole position. I'm not sure if we would have been able to advance much further in the fast six, so eighth isn't a bad starting position at all.

We'll still have time to get the car dialed in for the race during a practice session Sunday morning, so we're enthused about our chances in the race. Street circuits are always busy. Lots of people end up going off or getting in trouble, so it opens the door for cars that are farther back in the field. If we can stay away from trouble, we'll be in good shape.

Overall, the car is quite consistent, and that's a testimony to my engineers and crew guys. They've been great all season, and I know they'll be on top of their game Sunday. Sometimes people focus only on the drivers in auto racing, but it truly is a team sport.

There are engineers, led by Allen McDonald, who make decisions about how to set up the car's various elements. And there's my strategist, Tim Broyles, who makes the decisions as the race plays out, and my crew that performs all the fast work during pit stops. It's a great group, and I have full confidence in them.

Lots of people have been asking about the course, and I've been telling them it's pretty cool. When we first got here and saw it, we knew it was going to be an extremely tough circuit. We had some delays Friday because some of the fencing had been taken down because of Hurricane Irene, but the course workers were at it all night and got everything ready, so hat's off to them for the effort.

The trickiest part for me has been the entry to Turn 3. There are a lot of bumps leading into it, and we're under heavy braking, so it's easy to lock up the wheels going into that turn. But otherwise it's been a challenging, technical street course that has plenty of interesting elements, including some really tight corners and high-speed straightaways.

And the crowds this weekend have been unbelievable. I heard estimates Saturday of 100,000 people to watch qualifying, which is a huge crowd. When we first got here on Wednesday, it was quiet, but then we saw more and more people. Drivers love to race in front of large crowds, so we're all excited about how many people will show up Sunday.

Like I said, we've been extremely busy away from the paddock all weekend, making appearances and signing autographs and getting a chance to meet race fans. We did an appearance at Buffalo Wild Wings that drew a lot of people, and everyone we've met is excited about the race. It's been so well-received, so thanks to everyone for coming out.

I hope you enjoy yourself during the race, and I hope to bring you the result we want.