Race car drivers can be a fairly predictable lot sometimes. If we win, we can't wait to get back in the car and get after it again. If things don't go the way we wanted, we can't wait to get back in the car and get after it again. That's just the way we are. So, after enduring a tough start to the season at Homestead and having three weeks to think about it, I'm about as ready to race as any driver has ever been.
We're heading to Phoenix this weekend for the second race of the year and I'm really looking forward to getting back in the car. The race weekend at Homestead certainly had its enjoyable moments. It felt so good to be back racing again. I was back with my guys, sorting out a race car, feeling things out. It was just great to be racing, to be competing.
Everything that went into the weekend just had a good feel to it. We had an autograph session one night and then I spent a couple nights at sponsor appearances with Jerry Putnam and the whole gang from ArcaEx. I suppose it all sounds quite routine and doesn't sound like the glamorous part of the job, but I really missed all of that when I was away from the track most of last season. This is, after all, my life. It's all I've ever done.
But, things didn't turn out the way I would have liked at Homestead. I ended up in the wall barely past halfway. I headed home early; fed up and a bit sore. It was a sort of anti-climactic. I've obviously been in the business long enough to know that there are ups and downs, but this time was particularly difficult.
Of all the times for a three-week break. It wouldn't have been so bad if I had won. I could have bragged to my teammates for a couple extra weeks! But, after you have a race like that, you want to get to the track the very next weekend to get the bad taste out of your mouth. With no race scheduled that next Sunday, I took advantage of the time off.
I spent a couple weeks back at home in Scotland and enjoyed it a great deal, as always. I got to watch Glasgow Celtic beat our arch-rival, Glasgow Rangers, the first Sunday back and then watched them beat Barcelona the next Thursday. I came back to the States earlier this week to take care of some business and now the Phoenix weekend is here, which is good news to me.
It looks like it's going to be really warm in Phoenix this weekend -- maybe not by local standards, but certainly by mine. That's OK, though. I've been training really hard and am back to 100 percent shape, so that shouldn't be an issue. I think it will also put a bit more emphasis on really getting your car working. Whoever gets that done should have a big advantage during the weekend. And, as competitive as the IndyCar Series is these days, you need any advantage you can get.
I expect Phoenix to be a different type of race than what we saw at Homestead -- all that two- and three-wide stuff. That was the first time I had dealt with that style of racing in the IRL and it was a bit of a learning experience. Some of the racing out there was a little questionable. And, I'm not just talking about the rookie that got into me. There were some guys out there -- some experienced guys -- that were absolutely driving like idiots. And, that needs to be addressed. I had a conversation with Brian Barnhart about that and he saw it, so he knows what's going on.
I'm sure passing will be more difficult this weekend than it was at Homestead, due to the tighter confines of a one-mile oval, but not impossible. If you get your car working right you should be able to pass, which will be a huge advantage and should give you a good shot at it.
That's all I want is a shot. I'm going down there to win. I never go into a race hoping for anything but that. I want to cross the line first. But, at the same time, I always go into a race telling myself to do the absolute best I can and then hopefully that will be enough to allow me to win. If I go do my best and the team goes and does its best, then we should be winning.
Over the course of my career in CART I had my share of success. I was fortunate enough to win 10 times and even tied Juan (Montoya) in the championship standings back in '99. But, with all I've been through in the past year and everything I want to accomplish for myself, for Honda and for everybody at Andretti Green, a win Sunday would be huge.
Dario Franchitti competes in the Indy Racing League IndyCar series for Andretti Green Racing. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season.