As I head into this weekend's IndyCar Series event at Kansas Speedway, I realize that I am really getting into the most difficult part of the schedule. Our season begins with our first three races which kind of build up to Indianapolis and then we have the entire month of May at Indy. Once we hit the first of June, we are basically racing every other week, and at times are competing on three consecutive weeks. As a result, it all comes about pretty quickly.
This is the first time I've seen a lot of the tracks as an IndyCar Series driver due to the injury I suffered midway through the 2003 season, and that makes the learning curve a bit steeper. But, I'm very excited about going to the tracks because the guys at Andretti Green Racing have consistently given me a very quick car. I've been able to go to every race with the hope of getting a good result because I know that I'll have good equipment under me.
I've had to figure out how to get around some of the tracks in a pretty short amount of time, especially at Richmond -- which was a two-day event and was a completely different type of track that I'm used to. Unfortunately, as a race driver, you are judged on your results and I've only had one good result this season. That was at Texas where I sat on pole and eventually finished second to my teammate, Tony Kanaan. The remainder of the time, I've managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Last Saturday's race at Richmond is a glaring example. We led more laps with the ArcaEx car than anybody else and were looking for a very strong result when Mark Taylor made contact with me. I lost three laps before being restarted and that basically took me out of contention. From that point of view, things have been very frustrating, but I'm certainly looking for a positive result at Kansas and from that point on.
When you are racing every weekend, as we are during the upcoming stretch at Nashville, Milwaukee and Michigan over three consecutive weeks, my schedule tends to get very busy. Fortunately, Nashville will be a 'home' race for me, since I live in the Nashville area, and I plan to fly my helicopter to Milwaukee, so that will save some time, as well.
The normal weekend extends from a travel day on Thursday through racing and returning home on Sunday night. That leaves Monday as a 'quiet' day for me to relax, maybe spend a little bit of time around the house and ride my bike. Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I catch up on things at home, fit in a couple hours on my bike or at the gym and get ready to leave for the next event on Thursday. I do quite a bit of bike riding as a means of training (good luck, Lance, in the 2004 Tour de France). There are some pretty good hills in the area around Nashville; it's nothing like back home in Scotland, but it's not flat like Indiana, either!
There hasn't been much of a gap in our schedule since the season started. As a result, I haven't been home to Scotland since the end of February, following our season-opening race at Homestead-Miami. So, after we finish this weekend's race at Kansas Speedway, I'm going to take 10 days and head back home. I have been fortunate in that my dad and my brother have been able to come over here and attend some races, but it will be nice to be able to get back and see my mum, my sister and some of my friends, as well. It's always a good break, and I'm really looking forward to that.
Before I can think about going back to Scotland, though, I have some racing to do.
-- Dario Franchitti
IRL IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti drives the #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season. His Web site can be found at: www.franchitti.com.