As far as I’m concerned the greatest racecar I ever drove is the car that gave me the greatest happiness in my motor racing career. It is the qualifying car that put me on pole position at the 1997 Indy 500, which is my Treadway G Force GF-01 IRL car. The way we had the car set up and the way it handled was just phenomenal, I’d never driven anything like it before, nor since. It was so dominant that I set the time on the first practice day and was able to “sit out” most of the other days, using the final practice session on Carburetion Day merely as a systems check. Some say starting from pole at Indy isn’t so important, let me say it’s better to start from pole than anywhere else as you’re sure not to get tangled up in any mid-grid collisions. So, my view is it’s better to be as near to the front as possible.
The weather was a significant feature in ’97, as rain cancelled the race on the traditional Sunday and it was rescheduled for the following day. Memorial Day was cloudy, but the race started. As we entered lap 10 the rain started and by lap 15 the race had been red flagged. When it resumed on the Tuesday at lap 16, the first two laps were under caution and on lap 18 we got the green flag. I had a good race with Tony Stewart and my teammate, Scott Goodyear. There were a number of yellows at the finish for crashes and debris clearance. Fortunately, I was out in front at that time and took the win. I can tell you, when you’re leading the last lap everything goes through your mind, you tell yourself the car is going to hold together, you imagine the shame of falling off at the last corners, you hope you have enough fuel, you trust the tires won’t burst. All these negative thoughts until you see the checkered flag, then it’s pure joy and relief. The milk, of course, is pure nectar.
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