Grist: Uncharacteristic opening weekend in St. Petersburg

Garett Grist, Mazda Road to Indy, Pro Mazda, Pro Mazda bloggers — By on April 9, 2014 7:54 am

Garett Grist Pro Mazda Andretti AutosportI’m Garett Grist, one of the Pro Mazda drivers at Andretti Autosport, and I’m excited to be blogging for you this season at More Front Wing!

We’ve come into this season in a good place. I worked with Andretti last year in USF2000, and we finished third in points and took home the Rookie of the Year title, so I was really happy to move up the ladder with the team for 2014.

I’m going into this year with a crew that’s completely new to me, which might surprise some people since Andretti is such a big operation and the team isn’t running in USF2000 this season. Although those guys have all stayed with Andretti, they’ve moved to the Global Rallycross team or the other open-wheel teams. The result is that I’ve ended up with the exact same group that won the championship with my teammate Matt Brabham last year; that’s about the best starting point a driver could ask for!

Compared to last year, I could really feel quickly that this series is a step up. There’s more that goes into it, more people working with you and for you, and a bit more pressure, too, I’d say.

I especially love working with my engineer, Yancy Diotalevi. He’s great. We started working together at Winterfest and won one race at NOLA, had a podium at Barber and managed to finish in the top five in all four events, so it’s safe to say we built some chemistry quickly! We know how each other thinks, and we know what we each want in the car; that’s a really good thing to have. Plus, we’re able to have compromise. He may want to change this and I may want to change this, so we might do part of his and part of mine. I think that kind of thing builds a really good team.

After such a strong start at Winterfest, we were looking forward to getting to St. Petersburg and seeing what we could do to start the regular season. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.

We spent all of Friday just getting me used to learning how a Pro Mazda car handles on a street course. It was good to dedicate both sessions to having me become familiar with driving the bigger and more powerful Pro Mazda car on that track and for all of us to learn what kind of adjustments we’d need to make.

On Saturday, we had a qualifying session and the first race. The weather wasn’t very good at all, so that made things interesting. We had a really rough qualifying and made some adjustments to the car that we probably shouldn’t have made. We wound up eighth, which definitely wasn’t where we expected to be.

My DaVinci Foods/Lander Property crew and I went back to the paddock and made some changes, and then we waited for what seemed like forever while the rough weather and tornado warnings went through. We finally got on track for our first race at about 7:00 that night.

Once that got going, about halfway through the first lap in Turn 5 there was a chain reaction. I locked up and had nowhere to go, and I got into the back of another guy. I had to come in for a new wing, and I ran the whole race with a bent suspension. But, we were still doing times almost as fast as the leaders even while bent, which we thought was a good sign for Sunday.

NEXT PAGE: Garett recaps race two and reflects on his Andretti teammates

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