On Saturday it was dry and warm out. Before the race we decided to take a huge gamble and try some big setup changes, which included running an anti-roll bar that we had never used before. I got to feel out the changes in the morning warmup, and they were good — I went just as fast on the old warmup tires as I did on the sticker qualifying tires.
When the green flag dropped, we headed down to turn 1 with many guys making mistakes and going wide. Two cars got together entering turn 5 and another spun in turn 12, which boosted me up the time sheets. This was great, but then the track went full course yellow.
I was confident I could keep moving forward whilst holding off the handful of guys behind me. When the restart happened I was all over the gearbox of the car ahead of me. The next thing I knew, I was getting passed like a sitting duck. It turned out that since we could not find grip from the dampers we cranked some aero into the car to give me that grip. It was great for braking and turning, but on a straight line all I was doing was towing the other cars down the straight.
After two laps I fell down two positions. I was right behind those two guys, though, and they could feel the pressure. Every time I tried to draft them down the straight it was if nothing was happening. I would pop out to make a pass, but it was like hitting a concrete wall of air. I knew that I was going to be unable to make a move on them early in the race and would have to wait it out until tires were old and people got tired.
With 10 laps to go I could see that the car ahead of me was sliding and locking up tires under braking. I began to fill his mirrors as if I was going to make a pass, and he got more and more off line. On the last lap, he ran a little wide coming out of turn 4. I planted my foot and held it wide open through the back chicane, giving me a good run on the car ahead of me. I forced him to brake deep and lock up his front tires. He barely got back on track but held me off.
I knew there was only 1 more spot to make a pass, and that was into turn 12. Exiting turn 10 the car ahead of me got massive oversteer, so I made sure I maximized my traction. I was so close to his gearbox that I could have given him a little nudge, like back in the karting days. He outbroke himself into turn 12 and I was able to grab the position, bringing the car home 9th.
It was a blast racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was a surreal feeling heading down the main straight seeing the grandstand packed in turn 1. I can’t imagine what it is like to see that on all four corners of the racetrack. I got to cross the yard of bricks, which is something not many people can say.
It’s a shame that we had so many mechanical issues that halted our progress, but the positive thing was that all of the issues were diagnosed and solved after the session. Luck has not been on my side this season in Indy Lights, but I am thankful for the opportunity to be at such a high level of racing.
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