Grist: Craziest car races of my life at GP of Indy

Garett Grist, Mazda Road to Indy, Pro Mazda, Pro Mazda bloggers — By on May 22, 2014 1:24 pm
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Garett Grist Pro Mazda Andretti AutosportI was part of a few crazy races early in my career, but the two Pro Mazda races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course were the craziest I’ve ever been a part of in race cars!

Everyone at Indianapolis Motor Speedway did a great job on the track. It was probably the best track I’ve ever been to for racing. There were so many passing opportunities and so many hard braking zones that on every lap you were passing or getting passed. It was crazy with a lot of three-wide and sometimes four-wide racing down the front straight, which made it really cool.

My favorite part was the section from turns 7 to 10. That was a lot of fun. You can put a wheel on the grass and really cut the curbs and stuff. And in those runs into corner 1 and corner 7 there are long, long straightaways with so much draft and so much opportunity to pull out and pass.

And then there’s racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself. You’re obviously going the opposite direction of what the Indianapolis 500 does, but that first lap when you drive down that front straight and you drive past the Pagoda, it means a lot for sure.

We had a few practice sessions over Wednesday and Thursday, and those went well. The No. 27 DaVinci Foods/Lander Property Management car was consistently up in the top three.

In qualifying, we ended up P4 for Race 1. We were quickest for bits of the session here and there, but overall I was really happy with qualifying P4 because I knew it would set us up well for the start.

And that start ended up being crazy. We went into corner 1 in 2nd and came out in 12th. I was on the outside and everyone started crashing low and all the cars spun high, so I almost had to come to a stop to avoid Pipo Derani, who was stopped on the outside. That really hurt us, but I was able to make my way back up to 6th by the end of the race.

For Race 2 I started 3rd thanks to having a quick second-fastest lap in qualifying. I came out of corner 1 in 4th and just had a great battle from there on out. I fell back two spots, made them back up, and fell back a few more and made them up again. It was really great racing. We ended up 4th, just shy of a podium.

There was a lot of crashing in both races and a lot of staying out of trouble. I’d get up a few spots and then someone would brake deep and push me out wide and a few more guys would slip by, and then I’d pass other guys back. It was really back and forth. Being at Indy with the draft, you couldn’t pull away from anyone and it made for a lot of great racing, great passing. It’s just too bad there was a lot of contact in both races, which kind of took away from some of the fun.

I’ve been living in Indy ever since we left Barber and have been having a great time hanging out with friends, going to the gym, and spending time at the Andretti Autosport shop. My engineer, Yancy Diotalevi, is in town all month as well. He’s assigned to IndyCar stuff, but we’ve still been able to meet up and go for lunch and look over things, so that’s been helpful and we’ve been working hard.

I’ve been hanging out almost every day with a couple of other Pro Mazda racers, Adrian Starrantino and Henrik Furuseth. We buy stuff at the grocery store and cook lunch together, and sometimes Spencer Pigot joins us to play football and soccer at the park in downtown Indy. The other day I got together with Shelby Blackstock, Matt Brabham, and Zach Veach, and we played basketball at the park together. It was nice to have all of us teammates hanging out. It’s been a lot of fun.

We had the official Mazda Road to Indy oval test at Lucas Oil Raceway last week, and that went really well, in my opinion. We had great pace and were consistently up in the top three all day, which was great. I think we’re going to be set up well for the race there. I almost won that race in USF2000 last year, but it’s a lot different to drive around that track in a Pro Mazda car. You use the same line, but the speed difference in incredible. In USF2000 you can use more of the lanes and it’s easier to pass. I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to pass in the Pro Mazda race if you get shuffled back at the beginning.

I’m looking forward to getting there on Saturday night for the Night Before the 500 to see what I can do!

- Garett

Garett Grist competes in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires with his team Andretti Autosport. Follow him on Twitter @gristgarett and on Facebook.

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