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.”
Aug 28, 2014, 8:22 PM EDT
While he’ll be returning to the familiarity of being in a race car and around fellow drivers and race fans Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway after missing the last three races to grieve over the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy, it’s almost as if Tony Stewart will be starting his career anew.
Aug 28, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
First reactions from the NASCAR community are starting to emerge after today’s announcement.
Aug 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA has more on the situation surrounding one of the Nationwide and Truck Series’ more prominent outfits.
Aug 28, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT
USA Today’s Nate Ryan calls in to NASCAR AMERICA to talk about the impact of the three-time Sprint Cup champion’s return this weekend at Atlanta.
Aug 28, 2014, 4:38 PM EDT
After missing the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup races following the tragic accident that claimed the life of 20-year-old sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. at an upstate dirt track, NASCAR star Tony Stewart will return to racing this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 28, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT
They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing. As we get closer to Sunday’s Sprint Cup night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, things are definitely heating up.
Aug 28, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
“The Captain” and his crew have not celebrated an IndyCar Series title since Sam Hornish Jr. won it all in 2006.
Aug 28, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
NBCSN coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ title tilt at Auto Club Speedway begins Friday at 7 p.m. ET with qualifying, followed by the MAV TV 500 on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.
Aug 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner gets another chance to finally capture an IndyCar Series crown this Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
Aug 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Justin Wilson back at the track where he got injured a year ago, seeking to end 2014 on a high note.
Aug 28, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT
Could Tony Stewart’s three-week absence from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in light of the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy be coming to an end?
Aug 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will wait to extend their deal until after the season ends.
Aug 28, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
IndyCar banks a night of testing before this weekend’s MAVTV 500.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:03 PM EDT
It’s pretty simple and straight-forward what Jamie McMurray must do in the next two races if he has any hope of making this year’s expanded 16-driver field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Aug 27, 2014, 6:19 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Jeff Burton spoke with Rick Allen and Frank Stoddard about the spectacle of racing at Bristol and just how difficult Joey Logano’s victory at the half-mile oval was.
Aug 27, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT
NASCAR driver jeff Burton says there has been no word yet from Tony Stewart on whether the latter will return to the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Atlanta after missing the last three races due to the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy, but it could be a last-minute decision.
Aug 27, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Turner Scott Motorsports team was reportedly set to close; however, that appears to have changed.
WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — Burton on replacing Stewart, Logano’s Bristol win, Atlanta look ahead
Aug 27, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT
Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America will be chock full of looking back at Saturday’s race at Bristol, as well as starting our lookahead over the next three days for this Sunday’s night race at Atlanta.
Aug 27, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
IndyCar will formally confirm the addition of New Orleans to its 2015 schedule later Wednesday.
Video from NASCAR America
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