The season has kicked into full swing! And back to back race weekends means back to back updates. So here is my update from my first ever street race at the streets of St. Petersburg. And what a track it is! Wheeling the car through the tight city streets over the bumps and right up next to the walls is a lot more fun than I thought it would be, but still super challenging.
For this event, practice was very limited. This was because we had to fit all three steps of the Road to Indy in along with INDYCAR, MX-5 Cup and Stadium Super trucks over the three days. So, I only got one practice session to learn the track before qualifying. During the first practice, I had been getting up to speed before a red flag was thrown to clean up another driver’s incident. Going back out on cold tires, I knew I would have to brake earlier until I got some heat in the tires, but I wasn’t expecting cold tires to make as much of a difference as they did. Despite braking earlier, I locked up the tires and put the left front in the wall. I saw Alexander Rossi do the same thing on his out lap in the Sunday morning warmup, but luckily for him he did it in a section with runoff. But, that’s part of learning. I know what I did wrong and I can avoid my mistake next time.
We were in a rush to get the car fixed for Q1. We just barely got it ready about half way through the session, which was amazingly quick work by the Jay Howard Driver Development guys. But, the alignment was still pretty far off because there was no time to square it or scale it and I qualified for race 1 in P23 out of 26.
In race 1, I had a strong start picking up a few spots right at the drop of the green flag. On the first lap in turn 7, I just missed a fairly large crash which would be the first of many this race. Most of the race was under caution so I didn’t have many chances to improve my position other than getting by those who crashed. So despite having only 4 green flag laps, I picked up 9 spots by just surviving to finish in 14th.
Race two was a much better race. Starting from 19th, I had a little bit of work to do. I had a tough start and lost a couple spots along with a lot of ground to the pack ahead of me.
But I put my head down and worked my way up to the lead car of my pack in 18th. I was much faster, so I was able to leave them behind and catch the group ahead. However, I made a mistake and brushed the wall trying to pass and eventually ran out of time and finished 18th.
By the end of the race weekend I had improved significantly and became much more familiar with how to race on a street course. And I also learned that when you crash in the one and only practice, it’s difficult to catch up! I wish that we went back the following weekend to try again now that I have the experience, but that’s why these are often 2-year programs at each level.
Now I’m on to the hometown races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! We’ll have three races at IMS on INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend on May 14th and 15th. I’m super excited to race in my home state for the first time in three years. Along with that, racing at the racing capital of the world will be an incredible experience (other than my time there in a quarter midget in a parking lot). I am super excited and I can’t wait for May!
PS. Here is a link to my onboard video from St. Petersburg, if you want to check it out! 🙂 https://youtu.be/idxDoaOSC-M