- 16 June 2017
Before we went to Indy, Jim Kearney told me a story about his past. It was about a racing horse who had shown a lot of potential, but for some reason could never win a race, though he had very solid training and had all the physical ability. People were puzzled. He was retired, and given to a farm that would take care of him, and it was found out that his shoes were awful. He was in pain in the home stretch, and as soon as they took them off he was running better than he ever had during his career while being trained. His name was Skipper Lou.
The entire weekend at Indy Jim just kept telling me: Skipper Lou. We rented a car from a very good friend and long time team mate of mine, Eric Presbrey. His car is a fresh rebuild and we had finally admitted maybe the SMR/Momentum/GTP 06 wasn't in any shape to be running. It has become erratic to drive. We chase massive handling issues every weekend and the car's reposnse to changes seems to always defy logical explanation. We have something wrong with our Van Diemen. We think we know at least a part of why, but we were reluctant to admit defeat. Perhaps its partly my fault. I am too eager to martyr myself, blame myself when things go wrong. "I'm not driving it correctly," has become the mantra running through my head at night on a race weekend that has again bitten us in the ass. I'd come to accept maybe I'm just an F2000 gatekeeper. Not slow, but not good enough to fight for wins. We have a string of sixth place finishes, but can't seem to rise above that.
Eric's #35 is worlds different from mine. It doesn't snap into murderous oversteer like a rubber band breaking. I remember trying to describe our car's erratic behavior by saying its like it a jet engine pointing out the sides of the back that would randomly decide to fire mid-corner. That's how bad the snap oversteer is. But the biggest problem is understeer. Unending, cancerous, tidal understeer. I suspect our issues are in the rear of the chassis, artificially softening it beyond tuning it out by allowing it to flex. It has no stability. It has no logic. It has no personality except being extremely pissed off. If there is one car in the world that screams to you it does NOT want to be on track, it is our #06. The problem was, though, that I have never driven another Hoosier tired Van Diemen. I had no idea what it was SUPPOSED to drive like. Eric's car is a mewling kitten compared to ours. You could have a conversation with it, and it would communicate with you what was happening, and going on. You can get it massively out of shape and it easily comes back from hanging off the edge. It responded calmly to changes. To be honest, with the erosion to my confidence, running with guys like Matt Mcdonough, Rob Allaer, Brandon Dixon, I thought was a pipe dream. I didn't have the talent. But no, it turns out, we don't have the equipment. Skipper Lou all over again.
We found our legs again at Indy. I can't be happier. I was exhausted by Sunday. It was hot. It didn't sink again right away. I think it hasn't fully sunk in yet. It's not just we got a podium at Indy. It's that I found that I'm not just a mid pack driver. I have an entirely new confidence. Even when if we have to go back to the #06, and back to 6th place, I know I haven't lost anything in myself. With a good car I have the same potential to run at the front as anyone else. It's like I can breathe again now. Imagine being buried alive, and just when you have run out of oxygen and are fading away into blackness someone rips the cover open and gives you a whole new chance at life. This is very much like what happened at Indy.
I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders.
I can't thank the Momentum Motorsports guys enough, they've had their heads down with me every painful weekend. Jim Kearney has never waivered in his confidence and support of me and my ability. My dad Rick who has found a way to be at every race weekend of my entire life since I was nine, likewise has never said a word that wasn't supportive. Even on those long drives home across the country after another disappointing weekend, he's never said anything except we can find a way to do it because I have the ability. Peter Dempsey came to Indy to help engineer and he was a perfect fit into our program, as well as a super cool guy and even when telling me the things I was doing wrong was pretty confident we were going to be at the front. I know it's cliche "the guys gave me a great Momentum Motorsports car this weekend, [insert thanking sponsors here]," but racing is a team sport and without a good team, large or small, you're going to go nowhere. And I've got a great one behind me.
Thanks, Skipper Lou.
-Tim Paul #06... scratch that, #35