Costly miss made for a long weekend

If you know me – and if you’re reading this I’m tipping you do – you’d know I wouldn’t be thrilled with results right now.

Nashville was just a brute. 

And unfortunately Indianapolis wasn’t a whole lot better – which is a real pain after such a promising first crack at Indy’s road course in May. 

So as I write this I won’t lie, I’m a little disappointed. 

In this game, in IndyCar 2021 I’m learning that you just HAVE to be perfect. 

And we weren’t at our best on Friday. 

We missed the set up in qualifying and we paid big time. And in a brutally close field – we missed out on advancing by two tenths of a second. 

Two tenths of a second. 

That was the difference between being potentially up the pointy end, or down the back – where we ended up. 

So in short as I’ve said in my last few columns – we just HAVE to get better at qualifying. 

And I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater – it’s a bit doom and gloom right now – but I know it’ll change. 

I’ll get there.

We’ll get there. 

And when we do – it’ll be sweet. 

So we started 20th and it was just about small gains early. 

If you watched the race – you might have seen an eventful opening lap where we flew over the chicane – which became fairly newsy for the Sunday NASCAR race as you may have seen.

It was cool when Jimmie Johnson shared the video of our leap – thankfully we missed him when we landed! 

I feel my race craft IS getting better – and I’m comfortable out there. 

Now if only we can start a bit higher our chances of getting better results will improve. 

So in short, we were running 17th towards the end when I made contact with Rinus VeeKay – and had to drop to the back of the field for the restart. 

That ensured a pretty flat 23rd finish. 

There were positives for the team at least with Will Power getting his first win of the year – which meant plenty to him after his rough weekend at Nashville last start. 

As a whole – the weekend was so awesome to share the billing with NASCAR. 

The buzz around the whole city and the track was just amazing.

To share the garages and the paddock – and then to stick around to watch the chaos of the Cup race on Sunday was fantastic for race fans – definitely put it on your bucket list if you’re ever able to travel abroad again! 

And we had a new major sponsor for the weekend – our car looked like Peppa Pig with the pink snout, but it was fantastic to have Carshop’s support. 

And we still sit 13th in the championship – we’re still the leading rookie, although Romain Grosjean is coming for me – it was great to see him have another great weekend. 

So I’ll be a tad grumpy for a day or two more – but we’re back racing again next weekend. 

We’re back on an oval – at Gateway where we tested last month. 

It’s a seriously ballsy track – so I’m looking forward to what we can achieve. 

You know I’ll be giving it my all. 

It’ll turn guys, 

Thanks for the support. 

Scotty.

Small but solid steps

It’s not what I’ve been used to right now, but it’s a long journey we’re on – so small steps are important. 

We leave Mid Ohio with a solid result.

Nothing glamorous – nothing to write home about – just some good speed, great stops and a solid  finish. 

And that’s really about it. 

Normally you guys know me – and I think you know there’s no way I’d be happy with a qualifying result outside the top ten, or a finishing spot outside the top ten. 

But that’s where we are. 

And to be honest – I’m still not totally at ease with it (in fact I hate it) – but we’ve got our sights set on the big picture and small steps are the way we’re rolling. For now. 

So we walk away having qualified 14th (it should have been so much higher), and a finishing position of 12th

We now sit 13th in the standings – and I wish that was a bit higher as well, but for the moment – it’s just a solid spot to be.

Qualifying first – we were SO unlucky – I had a stupid shifting issue at the end of my lap and it didn’t land into gear. 

It cost two and a half tenths – and we missed the cut by half a tenth to advance. 

Man, it was the first time I’ve flipped out afterwards since I’ve been in the series. 

We seriously had the speed and should have been in the top ten. 

And that right now is what I have to work on the most – just nailing my qualifying laps to make our race days better days. 

But we’re working at it. 

Raceday was overall pretty good. 

Again, it was that word again – a solid run. 

We grabbed a couple of spots early amid the first few incidents, and our pace was good throughout. 

Our stops were tremendous – my #3 crew are absolute rippers and gave us the best chance. 

Now we just have to work at starting closer to the front to get some better results.

We’re learning every lap we turn – in this series you just have to be perfect – and that’s hard while you’re finding your way at speed.

We knew coming to America we were stepping into the most competitive motorsport series on earth – and IndyCar in 2021 is every bit that. 

It’s bloody hard. 

Every single lap is on edge. 

And then you simply cannot afford any errors – like Saturday’s qualifying moment, or it just ruins your weekend. 

So we’re getting there – albert a little slower than I’d like. 

But it will be pretty sweet when it arrives. Trust me. 

A shoutout to the Penske team – we finally got the win with my teammate Josef – which is a huge relief for everyone in our four-car operation. 

Josef has been great with me – and he’s been bang on the past couple of race weekends without taking the win – so he absolutely deserves this one. 

We’ve got a couple of weeks off now before we’re testing – and then we hit the brand new street race in the heart of Nashville which everyone in this sport is so excited for. 

From everything I’m hearing it sounds a mixture of the Gold Coast and Adelaide street events – it sounds like so much more than just a race with a weekend full of parties and big name concerts – it should be bloody fantastic. 

I’ll talk to you from Nashville y’all! 

Thanks everyone for the support,

Scotty.

The Long Road

Have you ever done something really, really difficult – and early on felt like you were bashing your head against a brick wall and getting nowhere but loving every second of it? 

Ha! Me too! That was my weekend at Road America. 

After the miserable weekend last week at Detroit – I was desperate to make amends at Wisconsin. 

I had high hopes after testing at the track a couple of weeks ago – so was feeling good about things – but I won’t lie, my confidence had taken a bit of a hit after Belle Isle. 

I think if you’re reading this – you know just how damn competitive the 2021 IndyCar championship is this season. 

It’s so hard. It’s so brutal. It’s SO even. 

If you’re off – you are at the back – guaranteed. 

If you’re on – you could post a great time and feel good – and still be 16th

So right now – it’s taking small steps. 

Right now, it’s being satisfied with increments that I’m normally not happy with – but at the moment, that’s what I have to be content with. 

We’re getting there. 

But don’t get me wrong – I’m still loving the challenge. And that’s what it is – the greatest challenge right now of my career. 

So to the weekend – Saturday’s qualifying was disappointing. 

I wanted way better than 17th. But again, it wasn’t a bad lap. I gave it everything – so was flat to be on the ninth row. 

For Sunday’s race – we almost shelved thoughts of a top ten – again it’s baby steps right now. 

We were aiming, best case scenario at maybe 11th

And we finished 14th

I feel like I’m back in school with the amount of homework I’m cramming in right now. 

There’s so much to get right – there’s so much to think of – there’s so much I have to work on, but I am confident we’re getting there. 

I just have to learn to put myself in better positions – to keep working on my race craft – to know when to be harder, and know when to take a chill pill (which doesn’t come naturally for a racer) – it’s a work in progress!

Each step I’m loving (maybe last week not so much) – but it’s brutal and satisfying and enjoyable all at the same time – which is kinda weird, right!?!

Up the front I was so bummed for my teammate Josef and his #2 crew – they dominated the weekend and deserved better than to have the win taken from them like they had at the end.

So I’m 12th in the standings, one spot behind Will – who grabbed the final spot on the podium on Sunday.

We have a week off now to gather our thoughts and do a little more cramming – then we’re back racing Mid-Ohio on the 4th of July – which will be a cool weekend to be running. 

Hope you’re all enjoying the ride. 

We’ll get there guys – and it’ll be sweet when it happens. 

Thanks everyone for the support,

Scotty.

PS. Congrats to the Shell V-Power team back home – loved seeing Will and Anton sweep the weekend’s poles at Darwin. With each weekend together you can see they’re getting better and better – which is awesome to see. 

Well that wasn’t ideal

Well if you were watching that – you’d know it didn’t go to plan. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

It was three brutal days. 

It was horrible really. 

And I’m so glad right now it’s over.

In a snapshot – here’s how we went.

Friday: posted a quick lap and then hit the wall and our day was done – which killed valuable track time we absolutely craved.

Saturday: qualified badly, raced our way through the field where we looked like we’d grab an unlikely top ten. Then hit the wall. Finished 19th

Sunday: qualified badly again – filthy with myself, then cut a tyre in the race and we were chasing our tail for a 20th finish. 

So the less said about all that the better. 

It was character building – all up it was one of the toughest weekends of my career in ANY form of motorsport, and you can sometimes learn more from your roughest days out there.

So there’s plenty to go to work on before next week. 

We have some good road courses coming up that I know we can improve our results on. 

The positives – we were the leading rookie in both races and still lead that handsomely over Jimmie and Romain. 

In the series championship – we’ve unfortunately dropped outside the top ten to 12th in the standings – so that’s a focus to work our way back in. 

Road America next week can’t come quick enough. 

It’s a the most magnificent race track – I was lucky enough to test there just last week and it is already one of my favourites. 

It’s right up there with Bathurst – which is a big wrap – but that’s how good the place is. 

For Aussies and Kiwis back home reading this – please put this place on your bucket list. Hopefully this weekend you’ll see how great the place is. 

So as I write this, I’m bummed – but that’ll clear in the next few days – and then we’ll be back at the track. 

I already can’t wait to get back in the car. 

What’s that saying – it won’t happen overnight – but we’ll stick at it!

Thanks everyone for the support. Take care,

Scotty.

The greatest and toughest day

Well guys, I’ve sat staring at the laptop here in the bus – yep, still at Indy – and I’m not sure exactly what to tell you.

It was the greatest day yesterday – seriously, the most mind-blowing build up. The pomp and the ceremony. The anthem. The anticipation. And the Indianapolis crowd. Holy cow. I can’t wait to see the place when it’s full. 

One of these days do try and get yourself here whenever it is we’re all allowed to travel next. 

I did it as a fan five years ago and it blew my mind – and then to think I was back as a driver a few years later – racing for Roger Penske, I mean, really – pinch me. 

There was a moment I’ll tell you about on the grid where I had to reach for the sunnies. I could just feel emotions coming when I realised my mum and dad and sister were back home – and they should have been beside me and Karly – and it hit me like a ton of bricks. 

It was the greatest moment of my career – and for the two people who have done more for me than anyone, mum and dad should have been here – rather than a world away back in New Zealand. 

So it was brilliant and awesome and so memorable for so many reasons – and to be honest with you, it also completely sucked. 

And I’m sitting here completely and utterly pissed off – and it’s 24 hours later. And I’ll probably still be dirty for at least another few days – so I apologise to Karly for that in advance… 

If you’re reading this, you know 20th is exactly not where I want to be finishing my debut Indy 500. 

It was just one that got away from us – from me. It was my mistake. And I’ll kick myself for a while about it – but that’s who I am. 

The race was going so well. Like, freakishly well. 

I was comfortable. The car was great. The pace was awesome. We were making our way through the field. We were holding our own inside the top ten. We were saving the fuel we had to save. 

We were ticking every box to make sure we were setting ourselves up for a run at the end.

And then I just couldn’t pull the yellow submarine up on pit entry and we rocketed through the pits at record speed. 

I think I scared the hell out of a few of the IndyCar officials who would have seen my eyes WIDE open trying to catch the Chevy at speed! 

It was just a simple mistake. 

I didn’t pump my brake pedal up enough – and Indy bites you. 

I felt until that moment I had not put a foot wrong through the entire month, and in one frantic moment an error put paid to a result. 

So it cost us a drive through penalty and from there we were chasing our tail just to get a result. 

It was a rookie error and I’ll learn from it.

Plenty of others had similar tales of woe – Stefan, Will & Simona all had their own moments at the same spot. 

It doesn’t make me feel any better – but it does go to show how difficult it is to pull these cars up. 

So we finished 20th – but still were able to secure the rookie honours – which was our goal. 

Plenty have asked me where I think we would have finished. I think we would have definitely been in the top ten – I’m not sure we had the overall pace to win it. But who knows… maybe we could have? I think a top five was up for grabs, which hurts a little to say. 

It just goes to show at this place you have to be perfect. 

And that’s why people keep coming back every year to try and nail it and win the thing. 

And I already can’t wait to get back here – even though I haven’t left yet! 

We shortly leave our bus where we’ve called home for the past month – which has been an awesome experience – and head for Wisconsin. 

We have testing at Road American on Wednesday – which I think will be good for me to get back in the car and move on, and then we’re on the Detroit streets next weekend which will be a highlight. 

It’s been a bucket list month for Karly and I and I’ve enjoyed it all and appreciate all of the messages from back home – it’s been completely overwhelming. 

We’ll be better for it next May. 

Just gotta remember to always pump those brakes…

Take care,

Scotty.

The Holy Grail

I sit and write this on Sunday night after a round of golf at the Brickyard. Sorry to rub it in, but I’m living the dream.

Yesterday I notched another top ten in our rookie year – our third straight. And in a couple of days I hit the track for opening practice for the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500. The INDY 500 baby! 

Seriously, living the dream!

So where do we start?

The golf game was good. Hit them well and I hope to get at least five more rounds in before May 30. 

We’re based at the track until the start of June – it’s surreal and cool and crazy to be parked up in a magnificent Tiffin motorhome with Karly and our dog, Chase. 

It’s like our own little caravan park with all of the drivers and their partners and families – hanging out ahead of the biggest race on earth at the end of the month. 

Did I mention living the dream? 

This past weekend we had the Indy Grand Prix which was completely satisfying on Saturday, and a bit less than what I really wanted on Sunday. 

Qualifying first – we made the fast six for the first time which is something I was really keen on ticking off. Fifth on the grid was a great result. We’re trying to take small steps – and this was a good one. 

The race yesterday was tougher – I reckon we had a car good enough for sixth – and we faded to finish eighth. 

I got caught up with some slower cars – and as cool as it is to be racing Jimmie Johnson, I lost a lot of time with the #48 which hampered us. I got some rubbish on my tyres (totally my own fault) which meant we skated around for a while – costing us spots with Simon Pagenaud and Alex Rossi passing me. 

But still – three top tens in a row is great – I’m happy and we sit eighth in the championship as we now gear up for the 500. 

The weekend as a whole was terrific for the sport – I was pumped for my fellow “rookie” Romain Grosjean to grab pole on Saturday – what a great story he is and he’s seriously a wonderful bloke, and Sunday just shows the strength of the sport for another first time winner in Rinus Veekay.

That’s now five different winners in five different races – so the sport is at an all time high right now. 

Which leads to what’s to come.

I’m a lucky boy to debut at the Brickyard with the biggest team in the sport. 

I know I’ve got a great car, I have a great team preparing the car, and I have the best crew for the stops – so it gives you confidence we can have a serious crack at the race. 

I have an icon by my side in the mighty Rick Mears – who has won this thing four times and is basically my right hand man this entire month. I’ve been peppering him with approximately 2 million questions and he couldn’t be more giving to me. Anything I ask he’s good enough to sit down and explain – and I think he’ll be awesome as we get closer to raceday to calm my nerves. 

And I’ll have the best damn looking car out there with the Pennzoil yellow submarine – sometimes I lay my yellow suit out on the bed in the motorhome and just look at it. 

Living the dream, baby!

So we have a bunch of practice sessions ahead of qualifying for the 500 this weekend which will be a great buzz in itself, and then the race on Sunday week (super early Monday morning May 31 for Aussie & Kiwi fans). 

It will be a career highlight to be racing in the event and I’ll give it everything I have. 

I wish my family could be here – my folks are back in NZ and my sister is in Sydney – plus so many of my mates and fans who would normally be here, but just can’t with the current restrictions. 

Still it will be cool to have a crowd approaching 130,000 – it’ll be the biggest attendance in the world since the pandemic – and it’ll be great to drive for Roger Penske on such a significant day for him and his team running the show here. 

Can’t wait for what’s ahead. 

Scotty.

My First Rodeo

Well, that was cool. I mean seriously cool. And wild… and unexpected!

And it was everything I was told it was going to be – bloody fast, bloody chaotic, seriously crazy, and we walked away with a podium! 

I know it’s only second – and we have way bigger goals in this sport to conquer – but on Saturday night back in the truck with the crew, it was so satisfying after our result. 

But I tell you what – I had a good feeling before the weekend.

Not being big headed or anything – but earlier last week I was talking to my good mate, Jack Riewoldt – the Richmond AFL champion. We share a mindfulness coach, Emma Murray, and we do a podcast together – as most of you hopefully know. 

Anyway we were trying to sort a time last week to do a record – and I cheekily said I was confident we could knock a result out at Texas, so let’s hold off a week. 

And look what happened! It should make for a good pod this week (keep an eye out for it – Balls and Bumpers!) 

But at the end of the day the test session we had at Texas earlier this year was eye opening – but also really valuable – and it gave me great confidence and calmness that I could cope with the wild speeds. 

So to the weekend – there were crazy storms and heavy rain forecast all Saturday, so we were really unsure if we’d run at all on the first day. Qualifying was scrapped with the weather – so the championship order set the grid, which meant we started way back in 15th

Like Barber and St Pete – my goal was simple and expectations low – just first, finish the race. 

I am so fortunate with the team I’ve landed in – obviously Team Penske is a giant. And I’m blessed to have the best people calling great races, doing great pit stops, and there’s seamless preparation with the car, which puts me in such a great position.

And we got lucky to land a caution at a perfect time – and all of a sudden we were running top three. 

It was so cool – and the rest of the race was such a blast. I enjoyed it and was smiling the whole way. 

Even the final yellow – and I spoke about this on the TV interview after the race, I found myself looking up at the grandstands taking it all in (for those who haven’t been – Texas has this ridiculously large grandstand – that soars into the sky out of turn four right through to turn one – and I had to catch myself looking at it!) 

And then I was looking at the back of Scott Dixon’s car – and even that set me off. 

I mean this guy is a hero of mine – a fellow Kiwi – a guy I’ve admired for years and years, and there I am up his backside chasing him for an IndyCar race win!

It was pinch me sort of stuff. 

We unfortunately couldn’t grab him in the dirty air – but to come home second for a New Zealand quinella is awesome for motorsport back home. Mum and dad are back home and said it’s been big news, so it’s great for the sport and great for us to be getting that sort of exposure. 

And Scotty Dixon was great with me afterwards – he knows I’m a fan – and has been really great with me, even though we race for arch rival teams.  

Sunday was a little less eventful from my end – but the start was equally crazy. 

Thankfully we started up the front on the fourth row of the grid – so we missed the big pile up down the back. 

Again our goal was to finish and to score points – and we were able to do both – and to grab another top ten with an 8th placed finish was rewarding. 

So that’s now 14th, 11th, 2nd and 8th for our four starts this year – so it’s all positive. 

Up the front, Dixon and Pato O’Ward join Colton Herta and Alex Palou as race winners – four winners in four races – it’s as seriously competitive as they forecast. 

We sit ninth in the title fight – equal with my teammate Will Power on points – which I’m really pleased with. 

We have a week off now before gearing up for Indy – with the Grand Prix on the 15th, and then the 500 at the end of May – it’s going to be such a great month. 

I wish so many of my Kiwi and Aussie family and friends and fans could travel – it’d be the time of your life to get over here. Seriously, I’ve done the 500 before as a race fan – and to think I’ll be racing in the thing in a few weeks still blows my mind. 

Can’t wait for what’s ahead. Hope you’re enjoying the ride!

Scotty.

It won’t happen over night

We’re getting there guys. Slowly but surely. Inch by inch. Lap by lap. I know they’re a bunch of clichés – but it’s all we’re concentrating on right now. 

We’re ticking lots of boxes – making improvements in every session, finishing every lap, and learning every single time I hop in the car. 

In the end it’s a sign of how far we’ve progressed in such a short time that we were shattered after qualifying on Saturday. Our practice pace was awesome from the moment we hit the track and we should have been in the top eight. So that’s on me. 

The red tyres I’m just struggling to feel right now. I have to get better at understanding them – and it’ll come, I’m confident in that. Again – we’re learning as we go. With everyone watching. 

So to the weekend. 

It was cool to get back to St Petersburg in Florida – to a track I’ve actually seen and been on before last October. It’s a great event and reminds me so much of the Gold Coast street race back in Queensland with the water so close, the party atmosphere, and the great vibe. And it was bloody hot and sticky, so it was taxing on the body. 

It was great to see more and more fans back trackside as well – I wouldn’t say the USA is getting on top of COVID, but we’re certainly pushing on and trying to get back to life as normal. 

As I said before – our practice pace was bang on and made everyone take notice. All four Penske cars were in the top ten so it was a super positive feel in our paddock area. 

Unfortunately qualifying then came and me and Will Power were dragging our bottom lip afterwards. He was flat after his worst quali, and we were stuck starting 14th – worse than last week, which I was filthy with. 

Yesterday’s opening few laps were absolutely bonkers – and again I’m learning real fast how to handle the starts and how crazy they are. I got caught out and lost a few spots straight away – but we were playing the long game and I didn’t want to knock the wing off early in the chaos. 

We pitted early and took full advantage – we jumped as high as second so it was a really positive run. It was a damn solid strategy that would have worked beautifully if another caution came late – but it never did. 

In the end we finished 11th – three spots higher than last weekend. Again we finished the race, we clocked plenty of laps and I feel more and more comfortable out there. 

So if you’re reading this, you know me well enough to know I’m not doing cartwheels over finishing 11th – but on this occasion, I leave content. We’re playing the long game, and I hope it pays dividends down the track. 

I write this on Monday morning and I’m taking the rest of the day off to have a break, and then it’s into the swing of things for Texas this weekend. It’s cool to have back-to-back-to-back race weekends – after such a long lay off over the off season, we get real momentum. I love it. 

After Barber and St Pete – this is really going to be eye opening heading for the Texas oval. Crazy speeds, wheel to wheel racing, and the boys tell me – it’s insane white-knuckle fun. Again, it’ll be a weekend of learning and giving it all we have. 

Bring it on!

Will debrief with you next week. 

Scotty.

Anyone Got a Beer?

I’m on the plane home writing this – completely cooked. It’s been a busy weekend, and a busy day, and I’m hanging to get home for a cold beer. 

Barber is like a rollercoaster – every single lap all weekend long was like a qualifier – so I’m physically and mentally drained. But can’t wait to do it all again in a few days time at St Pete!

At the end, I wanted to finish in the top 15 in qualifying and in the race – and we were able to do both. 

To make Q2 on Saturday was satisfying and I was pumped with my lap to advance, but in the end was slightly bummed to be 12th

Ditto raceday. 

I wanted to make sure we finished the race first, and then to finish 14th was good – but obviously I wanted so much more. 

As I sit here I’m content. I’m relieved. And I’m a bit rooted. And to be honest, a bit gutted we didn’t do just a bit better. Man I would have loved a top 10 finish!

It was a positive weekend though, I learnt so much from the opening moments of walking into the racetrack through until the checkered flag waving on Sunday. 

I’ve got a full race under my belt – which I desperately needed – and we’ll improve. With every lap you could see it. The team was happy, so I have to be pleased with the performance. 

Now, to the actual race. 

Holy cow – she was a wild start! 

I saw Josef spinning and went for a hole and absolutely floored it. Thankfully I came out the other side. It was my Cole Trickle moment in the opening lap of my season! I saw the carnage unfolding in the mirrors and was thankful to get away unscathed. 

I was happy with how the race went – the pit stops went smoothly and the car had great speed. We got up as high as sixth and I would have loved to grab a top ten. In the end I was pushing so hard to try and grab spots. I thought we’d grab Sato at the end but we just ran out of time. Still, we’ve got plenty to work on. 

Overall, it was great for the team for Will to have such a strong run and finish second behind Alex Palou. 

So the opening weekend is done. 

The highlights – I’ll remember Saturday’s qualifying lap to make Q2 for a long time.

Hanging out with my fellow rookie buddies, Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson before the weekend started was a real pinch me moment. 

I won’t lie, even the fact Jimmie a) knows my name and b) texts me, still makes me smile! And he’s one of the all-time best blokes – and I love how much, like me, he’s enjoying his Indy experience. 

A few days to rest and we’ll fly down to Florida and have another crack on St Pete’s streets. 

Can’t wait!

Scotty