Driver Special: David Rutledge writes about his season with Lynx Racing
6 October 2000
By: David Rutledge Many things have happened since my last column, all of which added up to a season that has enabled me to grow to the next level in my racing ability. The Monday after the Molson Indy Vancouver I flew back down to San Francisco. On Tuesday Steve Cameron (Lynx Racing's Team Manager and Driver Coach) and I spent most of the day refining some new driving techniques at the go-kart track. Later that same day, I drove down to Monterey so that I had time to play in a driver's charity golf tournament before the Honda Grand Prix. We played in a format called a Texas Scramble, great fun, and wound up seventeen under par. I was particularly happy, as it seems that when I have a good round of golf it follows up with a good race. Laguna Seca is only two hours away from San Francisco, the home of the Lynx Racing Team and team owner Peggy Haas. Jackie Doty, the other team owner lives right in the Monterey area. Lynx traditional has a large hospitality tent right across from the start finish line and as I was getting into the car I could hear the many guests cheering from all the way across the track. We started off the weekend with a setup similar to what worked so well for us at Road America, and, with a few changes before qualifying we were able to post the third fastest time. The start of the race was great; I pulled into second place in corner two ahead of former Lynx driver Buddy Rice and just behind Daniel Wheldon. For the first part of the race the lead pack was separated, but for the last ten laps Rice pressured me in every turn. On the final lap, I came into turn three to find dirt from the gravel trap scattered across the inside of the track. As a result, my car stepped out in the rear and lost momentum that is crucial because it builds from turn two all the way up to the "Corkscrew". This allowed Rice to get a run on me entering the corkscrew. He was carrying to much speed and hit my inside rear tire causing me to slide sideways. I saw the tire smoke from him locking his brakes even before I felt the contact so I was ready to react. The slide was almost past the point of recovery before my car hooked back up and I was able to make it to the finish line ahead of Rice -- with my left rear tire fully deflated! With the next race just six days away on the oval at Gateway Raceway near St. Louis, we had a lot of work to get the car changed over from road course to oval configuration, and the crew did a great job. The car turned out to be reasonably quick although not quite settled in a couple of areas around the track, but we still qualified well, less than a tenth of a second out of first. The race started out well, and I was able to run up in the top five, although the car still felt nervous. All of a sudden, on lap seventeen, my rear tire blistered and the handling suddenly became very loose. The race ran the full distance without a yellow flag so we couldn't pit to change it and I was forced to drive very cautiously to a twelfth-place finish. Not a great result, but both the team and I were happy with my driving during the weekend. Then back to Northern California and more practice in the go-kart before heading for a test in Big Springs, Texas. The track there is an old abandoned airport, bumpy and slick, much like a street circuit. Toward the end of the day we tried a setup on my car that my teammate Mike Conte and his engineer, Craig Perkins, had developed. It felt so good, we decided to start with that at the season's final race in Houston. The Houston race organizers really know how to put on an event, and on Wednesday we attended the Mayor's Grand Prix Gala, followed by a press conference on Thursday at the fabulous Northgate Country Club where I took swing at a 175-yard hole-in-one for a million dollars for charity. Unfortunately, my achieving fame as a golfer will have to wait until next year. Once we got on track Friday morning we found that the Big Springs test paid off big. My car was very good from the first session; it had good overall grip and was more forgiving to drive, which was important on the bumpy tight track. We were able to qualify second, just a fraction of a second off of pole-sitter Bordin, to make it an all-Canadian front row, with lap times that were nearly two seconds faster than last year's pole. Coming into the weekend I was concentrating on bringing together everything that I had learned during the year, all the good experiences as well as the mistakes. At the start I was able to pull right in behind Bordin, to hold second. The race was full of caution periods throughout the first half and Andrew and I were able to run about the same pace. Rice, who won the 2000 Atlantic championship with his third-place finish at Gateway, had qualified third, but dropped back on the start and by midpoint was back behind me. This position was very similar to Laguna Seca, however this time I didn't allow him the opportunity to come close. I was very pleased with the race as I finished a strong second, just sixtenths of a second behind Bordin. This was a great way to finish of the season and excellent way start the next season, as I will be back with Lynx in 2001. It's a great feeling to be able to carry on to the following year with the same team, the first time in my career that I've had this opportunity. It makes a big difference to be able to build on something rather than having to start all over again, and I'm really looking forward to running for the championship next season. See you next year!!!