Have you heard the tired phrase "live and learn?" Living to enjoy each opportunity and race I can compete in and learning as if I'll race forever. No matter my experience on ovals, I'm still just a rookie on turning left and right.
I'd never been to Watkins Glen before, though my teammate -- 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice -- I think first came here in 1997, hence probably why he was P1 on Friday morning in practice.
Watkins Glen is an 11-turn, 3.37-mile road-course challenge! Scott Dixon seems to know the shortest way around the track as he's won it 2-for-2 since the IndyCar Series started coming here back in 2005.
While I've never quite hit the right tune just yet in Nashville, I hope returning with a new engineer betters my chances in the Firestone Indy 200 around the 1.33-mile concrete oval.
I arrived in Watkins Glen on Wednesday (Fourth of July!) for some rental-car track time with Pete Artgenzinger. I spent three to four hours learning the ins and outs of the challenging track. To say it's pretty fast is an understatement; basically flat-out, gas-down, full-bore racing the whole time. The big challenges I faced for the weekend were the entry, braking and exit at the corners. It's about building up your confidence to run flat through the corners, and knowing the car will stick and do that for you.
Andy's family brought their motorhome for the weekend, so I spent the Fourth of July evening with them at the track watching the fireworks. On Thursday it was pre-weekend engineering time with my engineer, Chris, and then some glass blowing.
Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon, Vitor Meira, Kosuke Matsuura and I all went to the Hands on Glass studio on Corning's Northside to make some glass objects. Boy, that was neat! You basically put this blowpipe into the oven to get a molten glob of hot glass (about 2,000 degrees!) and then you spin it to mold it and dip it into different colors; I chose red, white and blue.
I love to watch the Discovery Channel and those shows about how stuff is made, so this was super cool for me. I've seen some TV specials on glass blowing, but never seen it in person. It was actually a little stressful. I didn't want to mess up. This is definitely an art form.
Friday we were on track for a good part of the day trying to bypass rain. We gained a lot and I definitely learned so much. That evening, I had to attend a function at the Corning Glass Museum to auction off the paperweight I made on Thursday before heading to Black Rock Speedway in Dundee, N.Y.
Andy was competing in the 600 mini-sprint race along with some of the other IRL mechanics. He came in first of all the IRL people who were competing, which was pretty cool. Dad and I drove the pace car to start one of the heats, which was really fun. I was definitely in my element -- at the dirt track in the middle of nowhere America. Big thanks to Jack Arute from ABC/ESPN for setting that one up.
Saturday was qualifications and I was first out to qualify. We had our tire warmers on and then I was out on the track. Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3, Turn 4, Turn 5, Turn 6, Turn 7 ... then Turn 8. I got up on the rumble strips and got loose, then spun around into the wall. Ugh!
I'm OK. Geez, I felt so bad for the guys. I broke the entire left-side suspension and the motor had to be changed -- the guys would work until late in the evening to get it ready for us to practice on Sunday.
To be honest with you, the Watking Glen track was really cool to race on. It was a long race and I was really tired afterward. My drink tube in my helmet during the race was turned up too high and would squirt into my mouth like a water gun, so as soon as I got out of the car at the end, I had to have some water.
It was so much more physically demanding than St. Pete was back in March. I'm happy to have had the experience I got in the car today and finishing all the laps. It's not often that many people get a turn with this little experience at a road course professionally. I learned a lot on race day and, quite frankly, the whole weekend we just kept learning. We'll carry all this into Mid Ohio for our next road course. Did you see all the fights on pit lane? Can't wait to see that replay!
Onto Nashville! Let's make some music; I love country music! While I've never quite hit the right tune just yet in Nashville, I hope returning with a new engineer betters my chances in the Firestone Indy 200 around the 1.33-mile concrete oval.
Nashville is a lot different than the other tracks we race on because it's a concrete surface. Competing on a concrete track gives us a slicker surface to compete on as opposed to the usual asphalt track we are used to. At Nashville, you need a different shock program because there isn't as much grip and it's really bumpy. You really have to be on it. I've never been to Nashville with a good shock package before. However, a good car can swing your opinions around 180 degrees! My engineers have had some good experiences there and hopefully we'll unload with a good car to start the weekend off with.
We'll be on Charlie Chase's Tennessee Morning Show on Thursday (July 12) at 7:45 a.m. ET and be at the Green Hills mall Thursday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. for an autograph session at the Bachrach store. Catch us on Saturday night under the lights live on ESPN at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Livin' and learnin' ...
IRL IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher drives the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing No. 5 Dallara/Honda. She is providing a diary to ESPN.com. For more on Sarah, go to www.sarahfisher.com.