I’ve never raced on Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the world’s coliseum of racing, the home of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Because of this, I must have been asked about ten times if I got “butterflies” driving down the front straight. Nope, I did not. I totally get that the Speedway holds so much history and prestige. But I honestly don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. I was at the Speedway to drive my car the best I could and stay focused on running the new course.
The race weekend in Indy was long, starting on Wednesday with two, count ‘em, two one hour test sessions! We were able to have so much track time that day because we were only sharing track time with one other Road to Indy series and IndyCar. I’m a big fan of this, and if any important organizers read this I recommend more weekends like the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
The two long test sessions went relatively smooth, apart from not being able to find the pit lane entrance during my first stint. I felt a bit like Kimi last year when he was trying to find the entrance road back on track in Brazil.
Thursday was the start to official practice. It was also our first time driving with a good bit of rubber down on the brand new track. In the first session, we missed the right setup by just a bit. My engineer had a good idea of which way to go for the second session. I went out and put down the fastest lap of practice!
On race day, the skies were not looking friendly. We had a bit of rain before qualifying, which meant we were required to run wet tires for the session. The track was drying out every lap. I came in and made some changes for the drying track and waited to go set a fast lap. I ended up going out on track a bit too early and ran short on fuel, so I missed the fastest part of the session. I qualified 6th, which was my worst qualifying effort this season. The good news is that the track at IMS is very easy to pass on! I was ready to do battle later that afternoon.
The weather continued to make me feel like I was in Seattle, or a Twilight movie. For the start of our race we again had a wet track, which meant we were required to start on wet tires. I made a good start from 6th to 4th on the first lap. Then we had a full course caution. I realized that the track was dry enough to run dry tires, but I couldn’t justify pitting from 4th in an 18 lap race. Alas, we went back to green and back to battle I went. I made a pass for 3rd on the restart and then closed in on the lead battle. I made it to 2nd at around lap 12. As I was trying to track down Jake Eidson, who was leading, I got ran down and passed by Will Owen, who decided to put dry tires on during the full course caution. I couldn’t even put up a fight on wet tires on a dry track. Will went on to win easily, and I settled for 3rd.
Race two on Saturday was very different from Friday’s race in a number of ways. First, the weather was great! Second, the grid was backwards, in that drivers who finished in the back on Friday were now starting in the front (apart from Will). Drivers who were running in the back on Friday just gave up trying to run on wet tires in the dry and came in for dry tires to set a fast lap for the race on Saturday.
I had a decent start in 12th, making it up into the top 10 in the first couple of corners. Then a driver missed a shift ahead of me in my lane exiting a corner leading onto a long straight, and I got passed by just about everyone. I managed to work my way back up to 11th by the checkered flag.
It wasn’t the best end to a race weekend, but I grabbed another podium and I had a super-fast car all weekend! I’m really enjoying all this momentum and confidence on our team. It won’t be long until I’ll be writing one of these about a win, or two!
Up next will be my first oval race ever, so stay tuned for that. Again, thank you all for reading!