May 15, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT
This is the first in a series of posts stemming from a Tuesday interview with Gil de Ferran. Be sure to check back each day for a new installment.
Gil de Ferran can’t help but laugh over the fact that it’s been 10 years since his victory at the Indianapolis 500.
“I will tell you something – it really does not feel like 10 years,” he said with a chuckle on Tuesday afternoon from England. “I guess it’s the harsh reality of life, we’re all getting old. But I don’t feel like it’s been 10 years. It’s kind of weird to speak of an event that seems like only yesterday on very historical terms.”
The two-time CART champion, known as “The Professor” for his studious approach to the sport, accomplished one of his greatest feats in 2003 when he stopped Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves from becoming the first driver to win three consecutive “500s.” De Ferran passed Castroneves for the lead on Lap 169 but still had to withstand multiple restarts within the final 25 laps before holding off Castroneves by two-tenths of a second for the win.
After arriving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane, he got out of his car and let out a yell of joy with his fists outstretched toward the sky – a moment that’s been replayed time and again ever since.
“It’s a memory that’s extremely alive in my head,” said De Ferran of the entire afternoon. “I can almost recall the planning of the whole thing to pass Helio…I can recall getting ready for what seemed to be a thousand restarts at the end of the race. It’s almost like muscle memory – I can remember my feet and the way they moved in the car, which is a weird feeling.
“That’s why I say it doesn’t feel like it was 10 years, and obviously, feeling-wise, it’s just something I’m extremely proud of. Every time I remember what happened that day, it brings strong emotions to me and it remains probably, if not the greatest achievement of my career, then certainly one that’s truly at the very top. It’s a day I’ll always remember with great fondness.”
And it’s a day that almost didn’t happen.
In the second round of the 2003 season at Phoenix International Raceway, De Ferran and Michael Andretti were fighting late for fifth place when the two made contact going into Turn 1. Both cars slammed into the wall, and De Ferran sustained a concussion as well as cracks to two vertebrae.
He was forced to miss the next race in Japan, and when he returned to prepare for that year’s “500,” things initially didn’t go well.
“The opening day [of practice], I’ll never forget it — I mean, it was a disaster,” De Ferran recalled. “My timing was wrong, I was aching, the car was surprising me all the time and I’m like, ‘What the hell’s going on? I can’t drive anymore!'”
De Ferran momentarily wondered if the end of his career had finally arrived, but then decided to, in his words, “calm down a little bit” and see what the next day would bring him. Sure enough, it all started to slowly return to him and he began to find comfort in the cockpit once again.
“Wind the clock forward to Race Day, and it was such a shift from ‘That’s it, my career is over’ to the greatest achievement in my racing life – from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Sep 23, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell sits down with NBCSN’s Marty Snider to go over all the details.
Sep 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Pagenaud reveals that he’s made his decision on where he’ll drive in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Rodolfo Gonzalez tests for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA discusses how the defending Sprint Cup champion has been flying under the radar in the early stages of the postseason.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
A local media report states that one of the drivers who raced with Stewart and Ward during the Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park has been called to testify.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: An interview with NASCAR executive VP Steve O’Donnell; Jeff Burton on what kind of racing the new rules package will produce; the New Hampshire edition of “Scan All 43″; and why is Jimmie Johnson driving a tank?
Sep 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Where does everyone in the Chase besides Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have to finish Sunday in order to go to the next round?
Sep 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Points shift after second-to-last IMSA weekend of 2014 in Austin.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Sunday’s Challenger Round finale.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
NASCAR’s top series is set to experience multiple changes next season.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.
Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.
Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
Not that we needed further evidence that Circuit of the Americas is awesome, but riding shotgun with Dindo Capello in Audi provides us said further evidence.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT
Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?
Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
It hasn’t always been easy for Logano since he broke into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. But there’s no disputing that the kid once known as “Sliced Bread” (as in, greatest thing since) has grown up.
Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.
Video from NASCAR America
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