Dario and I enjoy night races, in that the day of the event is usually very quiet. Practice and qualifying will have been completed the night before, so we sleep late, and he generally has few commitments. On 3 October, though, the day crawled by with excruciating slowness. I looked at the clock at 1:13 pm. When I looked again, it was 1:15 pm. Oh. My. Gosh. It was still hours and hours until the driver intros, the pre race and starting grid, and finally, the green flag. We didn’t know if we could stand it.
Dario would start the race second in the championship, behind Will Power 11 points. But he was totally calm, very relaxed and focus. Unbelievably, he had already won not one, but two, Indycar championships entering the last race of the season in second, winning it all in highly dramatic fashion. So, he had been here before, and for that reason (amongst others), most folks had picked him to finish the task.
Walking down the pit lane to Dario’s position on the grid – P1 – in an unbelievably hot lap the day before, he had qualified on pole – was a long and memorable one. The paddock is a friendly place. For eleven years, I’ve been a part of my husband’s racing, and the faces are warmly familiar. Of course, everyone knew extremely well the position the Target Chip Ganassi 10 car, and all associated with it, was in, as they equally understood the Penske 12 car’s unique watershed moment. It’s extraordinary to be here once, usually a once in a life time occurrence for a select few, and there is never any guarantee, no matter how gifted the driver, that you’ll ever make it back to this moment. My long walk included hand shakes, winks, hugs, nods, and fist bumps, including exchanging good lucks with The Captain himself (Roger Penske). And, once the cars had ripped off the grid and were taking their warm up laps, I had perhaps my favorite moment of all (apart from the way Dario sits on the tarmac in front of his left front tire and centers his thoughts one last time, and our good luck moment). I was stepping up onto the timing stand to watch the green flag. I was about to burst from the excitement/tension/pressure, those conflicting feelings of turning the outcome of the event over to a Higher Power, yet wanting the success and victory for my husband and his team. I was not the only one. Our pit was alongside Will Power’s, and some of us competitors are thus only inches apart. One of Will’s crew and I caught each other’s eye. Clearly, both of us were having quite a moment. We both exhaled and rolled our eyes in a mutually understood expression of, “How much more can a body stand???!!! Then, we broke into a face splitting grins and wished each other good luck.
What a unique position in which to be. What a great moment, night, season, and life, just having the chance to be a part of this.
Of course, Dario drove a perfect race, led the most laps, his guys gave him wicked stops, and won they Indycar Championship. Incredibly, it was repeat of the teams’ success in 2009, and Dario’s third title.
I thought this media snap shot [PDF]was very cool, and the images convey some of the kinetic energy of the night, and joy of success.
Congratulations to the Target Chip Gannassi team on another spectacular year.
And, no doubt, though the victory goes in the record book forever, and the celebration will be festive, it will also be relatively short lived. Power and the other drivers, including my husband, will soon set their sights on 27 March in St Pete, and the 2011 title fight.