Sadly, it’s more exciting than how my first USF2000 race weekend went, but no worries — I’ll spruce it up for you!
Let me make a quick comparison so you all know where this entry is going. My weekend in St. Pete was a lot like a long weekend of partying. It started off really awesome and I was totally feeling it, and then by Sunday it seemed like someone had kicked me in my stomach and I didn’t really want to talk about what happened.
The first day at St. Pete was the Mazda Road to Indy Summit full of media training, important people talks (thank you Mike Hull, Dean Case, and Dr. Jacques!), photo shoots, driver and crew meetings, and a track walk. I’ve never raced on a street course, so it was a bit intimidating just walking the track! The entire thing is lined with concrete walls (we’ll be getting more intimate with these later on). The track was surprisingly wide — four lanes wide in some places — and the front straight is a runway. Something that gives the surface of a street course a unique look is the crowning of the streets. On the apex of every corner there is a bit of camber/banking, and on exit the track falls away/off camber. The track looked super fun to drive, and I couldn’t wait to get after it the next morning!
The next morning I was up and ready to rock — or, truthfully, I was up and “zombie-ing.” See, in USF2000 we get all the not-so-prime time slots to be on track. For instance, on Saturday we had our first practice at 8:00 AM, which meant we had to be at the track by at least 7:00 AM. The first practice session was a total success. I made two long runs getting used to the track and getting used to being up close and personal with the walls. By the end of the session I had laid down the second-fastest time, which definitely was not bad for never having been on a street course before! I had a debrief with my engineer John Walko and my driver coach Steve Welk about the session and made a small change for the following session, which wasn’t until much later in the afternoon (again with the not-so-prime schedule).
During the downtime between sessions, I snatched up the opportunity to head over to the Verizon IndyCar Fan Village for the Q&A session with my teammate Peter Portante and fellow More Front Wing blogger Danny Burkett. I made good use of the opportunity to talk into a microphone and let everyone know that Danny looks like the villain from The Incredibles and that Peter and I are the best-looking guys in USF2000.
Once late afternoon rolled around, it was time to get back in my car and head out for practice number two. I was able to get extremely comfortable with the track in that session and laid down consistently fast laps. I ran the entire session without a stop to get a feel for full race distance. I ended the session 6th fastest, which I was pretty happy with. After a debrief with the team, a couple of changes were made to the car for the qualifying session the next morning.
The following morning snuck up mighty quickly, and before I knew it we were on the grid for qualifying. I got right after it when the session went green because I was told red flags might ensue. Sure enough, after four laps I was back in the pits for a red flag. I went back out and got a few clean laps in before another red flag came out and ended the session. I ended up qualifying P3! I was super happy with this result for my first qualifying session of the season.
NEXT PAGE: Things go south for Aaron as racing gets under way in St. Petersburg
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