IRL: Texas: Darren Manning's month of May "Blog"

Target Chip Ganassi Racing Indy 500 Blog! Target drivers Scott Dixon, Darren Manning and Ryan Briscoe wrote down some of their thoughts, in their own words, on the activities on and off the track via their personal computers or the handheld...

Target Chip Ganassi Racing Indy 500 Blog!

Target drivers Scott Dixon, Darren Manning and Ryan Briscoe wrote down some of their thoughts, in their own words, on the activities on and off the track via their personal computers or the handheld Blackberry devices throughout the month of May in their quest for the Indianapolis 500 crown on May 29. The following is a complete web log from all three drivers to summarize the team's 2005 Indy 500 adventure.

Darren Manning-#10 Target Toyota

May 8 - Opening day, rookie training. Had a team meeting with all 3 drivers and Arie Luyendyk, who was there to help Ryan. Scotty and I were there to help also and get the month started. Sat in turn 2 grandstand with Scott and Bill my engineer for a couple of hours watching the first 2 or 3 stages of rookie training. Ryan was obviously all ok & all well on top of things so didn't need to do much. Autograph session, lots of familiar faces, AlleyCats game my girlfriend Audrey the nickname "Miss May" which was a bit of fun. Sure to get lots more from them. TV interviews at 6 pm on WISH TV 8. We'll be doing that all month. Should be fun. Watch!

May 9 --Arrived at track 10.30 am. Photoshoots and green screen bits for TV, a little voice over bits as well. All sorts of media PR stuff. Met with the mechanics as they moved into the garages today for the month. Got finished at about 12.30, so I went to play some golf with Kosuke Matsuura at the Brickyard Crossing Golf course (part of which is played inside the Indy track). Got caught on camera by the circuit cameras on hole 12!! They showed it on the big screen at the track and immediately our mobile phones started ringing! Hit a good shot so I was ok!! Went to Mari Hulman George's Racers party at track. Met up with a few drivers, new and old. So good to catch up with Sebastian Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira and have a bit of fun. Back to work tomorrow!

May 10 -- Had a 9am live Radio interview with Scott and Ryan on BoB & Tom, with track dude Michael Young and Derek Daly. Was fun. Had a laugh or 2. We always get ribbed for been foreign!!! There was the all driver meeting at 9.30am for the month of May and Brian Barnhart talked about new track and format. Team meeting at 10am. We talked about what each car was going to do through day. Got a lot of work done in first 2 hrs, car was great and was very comfortable quickly. Sat out the hot couple hours mid afternoon. Did a couple new sets tyres before happy hour then put car away as everyone was happy. Debriefed and came home!!! Phew.

May 11 -- Team meeting 10am. Was planning on running with Ryan to do some race setup work but Ryan ran over some debris from Buddy's car after he hit the wall in front of him. So I sat and waited for either Scott to finish setup work on his Panoz chassis or Ryan to get his other car ready. In the end, decided to run race simulations by myself as neither were ready. Target car was good on full tank runs so we waited till track cooled in late afternoon to do more qualifying work. Got one run in before it rained at start of the second. Did WISH TV 8 live interview at 5:45 pm, finished debriefing with my engineers and came home for early night as I'll be up early doing radio interviews on WIBC at 7:45 am. See you tomorrow.

May 12 -- Thursday-Pretty normal day with team meeting at 10 am then we started running at 12. Ran a while in the T car (back up) getting up to my fastest so far of 225+ mph. Then ran the primary for a couple of runs just to shake it down for Saturday. Got back in the T car for some new tyres but crashed on one of my build up laps in turn 2. I think I got a big gust of wind which made me loose on cold tyres. I am ok but the same could not have been said about the car. Sigh.

May 13 -- Friday. I had an all Indycar drivers and team meeting with Brian Barnhart to talk about qualifying weekend and to answer any questions we had. Spent some time in the garage with the boys who were building me a new T car. I was ready to run in the late afternoon but as the rain came we did not get out. Got checked out by Dr. Bock. All ok. Stopped in to see Buddy (Rice) at his motorhome to see how he was and have a bit of a chat about his accident and have a little fun with him. Came home got ready for qthe Qualifiers 500 Club party tonight where they are honoring Tom Carnegie for his 60 years as Indy track announcer. That man is quite a gentleman. Tomorrow is Pole day. Can't wait.

May 14 -- Sat. Should have been qualifying but rained all day. Was thinking of calling the team in the early morning to see if I could have a sleep in as was raining when I got up. There was no way we were going to be running at 9am!!! Went into track anyway. Had team meeting, went through every scenario possible to make sure we were ready for anything. Had a lot of TV, radio and media interviews as thgy were trying to fill time due to rain. IRL called it a day after lunch so finished a couple more TV interviews and came home.

May 15- Sun. It was dry so we started running at 9.30 as I drew early in the field so was in the first group of cars which were split in 2 groups. It was first time back in car after my shunt on Thursday so was a little nervous and took a little time getting up to speed. What made things worse was the fact the track and air temperatures were in the 50 degree (F) range which made the car more nervous as well. Quals started at 12 noon and I ended up 4th one out. Had a good run and was pleased to get it done clean. We kept the car in pretty high downforce level. It gave me some more confidence as we knew we had a couple more attempts if we wanted to try again. We didn't in the end as we did not think we could gain more than a few spots on the grid... so the risk versus reward was not worth it. Debreifed and came home. Did WISH 8 SportsLocker live TV show at 11pm which was cool. Talked about the day and did a fun Q& A bit. Got home at about 12am for a well needed sleep.

May 16- Monday, a pretty quiet day. Relaxing after a stressful weekend. Ended up playing a round of golf with Jamie Little from ESPN and her producer Diana. Had dinner with a couple of friends and caught up with what we had all been up to in the month of may.

May 17- Tuesday. Got up early to play golf with Thomas and Toby Scheckter and Kosuke Matsuura. Unfortunately I played terrible and ended up losing a load of money to them!!!!!! Only what I had won when we last played so not so bad!! Came home made dinner and watched the Pacers get thrashed!!!!

May 18- Wednesday-First day back on track after qualifying. Ran most of the day working on race setups. All was well. Also got my new motorhome up and running at the track. Made a new seat for the 10 Target Toyota in the morning. There were a lot of fans at the track today as it was nice day so I signed lots of autograghs. Lots of bikini tops too. Nice.

May 19- Thursday-Had to finish trimming up my seat with Fred from Mark1 at 9am so even though it was raining and we knew we were probably not going to run on track today I had to go into the track. Talked with the team after that and discussed the game plan for the upcoming days. Worked with Chris Gerth from hospitality on Tv and miscellaneous things in my motorhome. I then went to get some bedding for it. Came home and did a radio interview on WIBC with Dave Wilson then had dinner. At 8 pm I had to go to the Brickyard at the crossing for a live radio show in front of the packed restaurant there. I was on with Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon, with Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan in the sidelines waiting to go on after us. It was a lot of fun. We were on for 30 minutes and the host Mike King who was interviewing us had a hard time keeping control of us all. He finished with a wet brow!!! Came home to see the end of the pacers game:(

May 20- Friday-Team meeting 10am. We discussed the day's plan and also any contingency plans if were not happy with today's results as there is a little bit of practice on sat and sun if we need it. Thankfully the day went well. We got through a lot of test items we wanted and the car was good all day. Finished running around 5pm as we were out of miles on the engine which has shown good reliability all month. We also did a load of pit stops at the end of the day as we like to do them live, meaning that I come into the pit box and leave it like we would in a race. (good practice and we were FAST!!!!!) Debriefed with engineers, did a couple of tv and radio interviews, and came home. Golf at the Brickyard 8 am tomorrow...woohoo!!

May 21- Saturday-Had to get up early to play in a golf tournament for Firestone at the Brickyard at the Crossing. The 500 Festival club runs the event and it is very big and has been played every year for ages.... so I was good to play in it! I played with Kosuke (Matsuura) and Tom Anderson from Fernandez racing and an ex pro called Chris who played very well. We shot a -15 in a scramble format, but didn't find out if was good enough to win!! Came home and chilled out for an afternoon.

May 22- Sunday- I went up to Tomas Scheckter's house to watch the Monaco F1 Grand Prix with his brother Toby and their mom. We then went out for a round of golf at a little 9 hole course next to his house (I won by the way!!!!) We came back and had a BBQ, invited Buddy Rice over for some food and a big game of poker which was very funny and lots of argueing as none of us know the rules fully. In the end I ended up winning the pot, which got back the money I had lost earlier on in the week in golf!!!!

May 23- Monday- Early start as we had a BIG media day. I had to be at airport for a 7am flight on one of Chip Ganassi's team planes with with Scott (Dixon) and Ryan (Briscoe) and a bunch of media people as we had to meet all the other starters of the Indy 500 race for a picture opportunity in Times Square in New York City. It was a lot of fun getting escorted around the streets of New York in our race suits. We did a few interviews there after the photos were taken and then the 3 of us and the media got back on the plane to head for Memphis Tennessee for a visit to Target House. There we unveiled the special helmets we chose to run for the Indy 500 which had been designed by some of the kids being treated at St.Jude Children's Hospital that stay at the Target House. We got there a little late (due to a long and repeated visit to the New Jersey Newark airport facility where our bus driver got lost driving from Times Square and went around the airport 3 times looking for our plane!!!!!)... but the kids and families were happy to see us. Scott, Ryan and I as well as Casey Mears from our NASCAR Target team unveiled our helmets for the first time and the kids were all so happy. There were a load of TV crews there so that gave the kids a chance to be famous for a few minutes and they were all really exited which gave everyone a great feeling. The four of ussigned and took lots of pics with the kids then got back on the plane and came home. All the travelling time passed a lot faster with journalista Robin Miller and Dave Furst hanging out and having a lot of fun with us drivers and telling lot of stories. The BEST part was when Robin dropped his cel phone in the loo on the bus while he was talking on it! That was just too funny!!!! Got home at around 10.30pm and went straight to bed.

May-24 Tuesday. Early morning I was on the popular Bob & Tom Show with Scott Dixon in the studio together. Casey Mears joined us on the phone for the show which was good fun talking about our Target House helmets. Track Dude (Michael Young) joined us as well. After that my manager arrived just after lunch, so it was pretty much a day off. I had some time away from the track so I went to the driving range and took a lesson with Nick Bianco to time up my golf swing a bit. I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours later that evening to talk with my manager, including the business side of Indy, and just my life in general. He's the glue that keeps my life together.

May 25- Wednesday. It was Community Day at the track. We kicked it off by launching the Target car suspended on the side of the building downtown. Scott, Ryan [Briscoe] and I had to be downtown at 7:30 am for radio and television appearances which was good fun. It was cool to see the stunt guys scale the building and it caused a lot of interest. We came back to the track to do Community Day following the downtown activity. We ran the remote control cars for the fans at the track, which was good fun. Alex Barron and Scott were far too good, and I think I wrecked about every car they gave me. I ended up being the blocker since I wasn't good enough to pass anyone. My girlfriend Audrey came in from the airport and we got her picked up when I was doing my autograph session. Then my parents came into town from England and I went to pick them up after a flight delay. Stayed at my house that night, showed them around my place for the first time in Indy and that was about it.

May 26- Thursday. I had a bit of a lazy morning which was nice to spent some time with the folks and Audrey. We went to the CARA Charities fashion show and had a lot of fun with fur coats and the catwalk. The girls all got dressed up and pampered. They loved it. I definitely enjoyed going out there in the long fur coat on the catwalk and showing off. Audrey led me around with a big fancy belt around my neck and it worked because someone bid $3,000 to play a round a golf with me. Came back to the track and did a load of interviews, and then showed off the Target House helmets on ESPN Live. Went to dinner at the Welcome Party in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame Museum. It was good to check out the museum and take in all the sights. You truly get to understand and appreciate the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway there. I saw a Birdcage Maserati that caught my eye for sure. But it'll have to wait until I have an extra million dollars lying around.

May 27- Friday. Started out on ESPN's Cold Pizza with Chip Ganassi at 8am. It was very cool to talk about the Target house helmets and the Month of May. Then we had the IRL all-driver meeting at 9am with our crew chiefs. We talked about the start of the race most importantly. After that we went over the race strategy in the team meeting. We also put the race engine in the car and did the final practice. We turned about 20 laps to make sure it ran all right. Made a couple changes and I think we feel good about our race setup which will help us out in traffic for Sunday. We feel we'll have a good car for the race in any weather condition. Ryan and I hung out in the pit straight boxes with Buddy Rice and his girlfriend and supported out guys in the pit stop competition. Had a few television interviews with ESPN watched the few thousand people that came out for the show. I would have liked to have seen the Black Crowes, but I had to go to our hospitality trailer for a preliminary race meeting. We'll have another one Sunday morning before the race. Then it was off to downtown for a Pioneer Sponsor meeting, followed by a Firestone autograph session. After that we had a dinner with the folks and Audrey, and it was in bed by 10 pm.

May 28- Saturday. Day before the race. 8:45am had a fan forum with Scott and Ryan, signed a load of autographs and took some pics. Public drivers meeting at 10am was fun. All 33 drivers received Indy 500 starters rings and we had a lot of fans come out to see us. We all got told what to do and not to do by Brian Barnhart. It was good to see Tom Carnegie up and about after his scare earlier on in the week. We then all got on the buses with girlfriends and any family for the Indy 500 parade. I took Audrey and was supposed to take my mum but we got separated and she got separated from my dad as well so she missed out on the downtown parade!!!! I owe her a big present now!!!!! Sorry mum!!! I had a couple of hours off after the parade to get ready for the Target president's party downtown at 6ish. All the team crew chiefs, engineers and managers were there and a lot of Target friends and co workers so it was fun to spend some time socially with them. Following that I had to go up to the workshop for a quick target vender appearance, to announce the surprise band that was doing a set for them there. The band was Collective Soul and they did an awesome acoustic set. I had some dinner then got a police escort with Scott back down to the track, where I spent the night sleeping in my motorhome.

Tomorrow is the BIG day. Here's hoping it's a good one. Hope you guys have fun too!

May 29- Ok Sunday- Got woken up at 5am by the cannon going off to open gates. Went back to sleep for a couple of hours, had a good breakfast, had team meeting. I then walked out onto the grid with Chip, Ryan and Scott from garages through Gasoline ally, and bumped into the AGR guys who were doing the same thing. We all went to pagoda for driver introductions and went out in row order. It was pretty cool with 3 Doors Down playing and with all fans cheering. I went to car for the anthems and fly by of the B2 bomber which was very cool. The race started well but the car started to handle very badly after about 10 laps, so I had to pit and tried all race to make it better. We even went back to the garage to make some bigger changes but to no avale. We finally had to park it, so I ended up watching rest of race from my bus. Hung out for a while and then hung out with Scott and ryan until the traffic died down. We all went to Helio's (Castroneves) party downtown but didn't stay long as I was still thinking about race. It's a long wait until next year. Sigh.

-tcgr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Casey Mears , Arie Luyendyk , Bruno Junqueira , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Tom Anderson , Derek Daly , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , Dave Wilson , Robin Miller , Jamie Little , Brian Barnhart
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing