Well, the 2014 racing season is now under way. The opening round at St.Petersburg, Florida, was not the smoothest weekend for me, but there are many positives that I can take from it. Any time we race on a street course we are limited to track time, so every single lap is crucial.
Our first practice started with a slight hiccup. We had an electrical issue when the BHA mechanics tried to warm the car up, so that forced us to miss nearly half the session. It was pretty cool to see Bryan Herta himself push-starting me in pit lane, though!
After we got the car started, I was told that I could not pit because the car would not restart. We needed to make some obvious setup changes, but I kept pounding laps in order to get comfortable with the street course.
After the BHA crew diagnosed and fixed my electrical issue, we were all set for practice 2. This one went much better. We got to fix 75% of my setup issues, but we were forced to put a new set of tires on in the first 10 minutes since our first set was extremely old. The new tire run went well, but there was still room for improvement. We planned on making big changes for qualifying and using half of the qualifying session to continue tuning the car.
But then qualifying got cancelled because of a little rain — and not heavy rain, either. I’m talking not even enough to scare Grandma away from walking to the grocery store. Since we lost a full session and were not given a warm-up Sunday morning (even though we asked), we were going into the race with 80 mins of track time and a huge unknown.
Sunday came around and we were ready to race. I mentally prepared myself to accept the circumstances and drive the hell out of the car we had. The race started, and I had pre-determined that I would go down the outside of turn 1 to avoid the usual traffic jam.
The 500 marker passed, the 400 marker passed, and everyone started hitting the brakes. I was thinking, huh? I know I can go another 100 feet and still make the corner. And that I did. I went around the outside and was able to overtake four guys, and then… a war zone erupted. Scott Anderson had a suspension failure, which shot him into the turn 3 exit wall. When I got there, I had already committed to the outside line. I remember seeing parts flying everywhere and hearing on the radio, “Whoa, big crash!”
NEXT PAGE: More details on the turn 3 incident, including on-board video
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