That weekend in Houston was a great one for me, even though it didn’t really show in the results. We consistently kept the No. 27 Lander Property Management/DaVinci Foods car in the top three in practice, and then when it came to qualifying we did the two best laps and we were able to put it on pole for both races!
It was a standing start for Race One, and I didn’t get off the line all that well. The car started creeping, so I had to lift off a bit. When I finally let go of the clutch, it bogged down a little. By the time it had settled, I found myself in third.
After that it started raining — first on only half the track and then the whole thing. That’s not something I’ve had to deal with in cars before. I’ve had it happen in go-karts, but in those races they would always just throw a red flag and give everyone time to switch to wets. This experience was pretty crazy. When you’re out there for that lap before you come into the pits, all you can do is make sure you keep all four corners on the car so that you have something left to race with when you get back out on the wets. There were cars sliding all over, and some guys made up a bunch of positions while others fell back. It was definitely really interesting, especially being on a street track. At a place like Mid-Ohio you can go off and you can get it back on, but at a street track if you’re off by an inch then usually you’re in the wall. Fortunately for me, I was one of the ones who was more or less even in positions and stayed out of trouble.
When it went back to green we ended up restarting fourth behind some of the Pelfrey guys. We all had dry setups on with the wet tires, and how well those setups worked in the rain affected how everyone’s race went. In the wet you want more downforce and a higher and softer car, so the teams that were already set up that way for the dry were the ones that ended up doing the best in the wet. We struggled a bit, but we kept it together and managed to come home in sixth.
For Race Two we started on pole again, this time for a rolling start. Going into turn 3 we had an incident with Scott Hargrove, which bent my left front and left rear suspensions. I was given a drive-thru penalty for it, and we’re still not sure why when I believe I was the one that got driven over. That’s racing, and it happens sometimes.
Overall we showed great pace in Race Two, even after the drive-thru penalty. I came from last at that point and made my way back up to ninth. With a bent car I was still doing the same times as the leaders and consistently might have even been quicker than them. If we hadn’t been involved in that incident and the car wasn’t bent, we could have won that race pretty easily.
Anyway, it was still a very good weekend that showed that we’re moving in a positive direction compared to where we were early in the season. Part of that difference is coming from the fact that I’m now being coached by Geoff Brabham, who of course is not only a great driver and a veteran but also happens to be dad to my Andretti Autosport teammate from Indy Lights, Matthew Brabham. We thought it would be good to bring Geoff in not only for driving advice but also because he’s great with managing things like stressful situations and atmosphere. He works very well with my engineer, Yancy Diatolevi, and the three of us together have been making great progress.
We’ve now had a month off since Houston. I love racing, but it’s also good to have that little summer break in there just to reflect on everything, relax and rest up for a hard charge for the last few races of the season. I’ve just been going to the gym, relaxing, eating well and generally taking care of myself.
I also spent the weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto hanging out with the team. It was too bad I wasn’t able to compete in any series that weekend since that’s my home race, but I still had a great time just supporting everyone and cheering them on. I also spent some time with my family while I was home and just lived a normal life for a week or two before getting back on the road.
Now we’re getting ready for this weekend at Mid-Ohio, which is probably my favorite track. It’s great for racing and great for the fans. We started from pole and won there in USF2000 last year, so it’s a track I’m very comfortable at and one I enjoy. When we tested there earlier this season we didn’t have the best test — we were trying things and the end result wasn’t great — but I think we’ve learned a lot since then and this setup we’re going back with is a lot better.
I think we’ll be one of the guys to beat this weekend. I’ll be back afterward to let you know how it goes!