The Andretti Autosport team and I are heading into our second year together in Pro Mazda this season, and we’re not messing around. This year, my engineer Bud Wilkinson and I are looking for the championship. It’s not about getting a podium here and there or learning and getting whatever wins we can. We know we’ve got to win as much as humanly possible, and we won’t be happy with anything less than a title.
As I landed in St. Petersburg, I was very excited to get the season started. We knew from Winterfest that one change in particular this year was going to take us a bit of time to get used to. The series went to a skinnier front tire, and although we thought it wasn’t going to be a big problem at first, it turned out the new tire was a huge advantage to some other teams like Juncos Racing and Cape Motorsports in that it really woke their cars up.
Going into St. Petersburg we knew we hadn’t fully gotten a grasp on that yet, but we were very excited to get the season started and to get on with it. I’ve always had good results at St. Petersburg, and I really like the place a lot.
The No. 28 Starstruck crew started the weekend off strong with P2 in the first practice session. We were pretty close, too, only a couple of hundredths of a second behind, so we were feeling good. We qualified fourth, which wasn’t too bad but I wasn’t overly pumped with it. We were looking forward to going for the pole and having me and Spencer Pigot duking it out. Spencer and I tied for third in points last season, and as the two top finishers from last year still in the series, this season I’m expecting us to be close rivals for the championship.
Going into Race One, it had downpoured a lot in St. Petersburg, and we were the last event of the day. The start was good, but going into Turn 1, Scott Hargrove was in front of me, and he broke really early for the turn, way more than I was expecting, and I had to dodge him. It was still really wet off the racing line and I got my left-side tires onto the paint, which more or less makes it feel like you’re driving over ice when you’re racing on slick tires. So, I went straight off at the exit of Turn 1. I didn’t hit any barriers, but I got stuck in the runoff area and had to back up to get back out.
Once the restart happened I was 17th, and I worked my way back up to 10th. I was happy we got back up that far, but it was a disappointing way to start our year.
NEXT PAGE: Good news and bad news going into Race Two at St. Petersburg
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