Well, that was an interesting weekend at Mid-Ohio to say the very least, and with almost a month to our next Firestone Indy Lights Race, we’re left sitting and waiting to get back to the action.
Mid-Ohio for me began on Thursday morning as I made the four-hour drive from Indianapolis with my manager Chris. We arrived in the early afternoon, watched the USF2000 boys and then walked the circuit before transferring to the hotel for an early night.
On Friday, we had a one-hour practice session to dial the car into the track and get back into a rhythm around what has to be one of the best road courses in America. We rolled out instantly with good pace and spent most of the session turning in very fast laps. Despite not being entirely happy with the balance, we ended up feeling very comfortable with our speed and confident we had plenty more on-tap when required. A great start to the weekend.
Saturday morning’s practice session was a write-off as the track was wet, and we only headed out for a couple of laps at the end to check we were good to go for qualifying that afternoon. As soon as we rolled out in qualifying, though, we quickly realised we no longer had the same turn-of-speed as the previous day. I struggled a lot with balance through Turn One and only managed to salvage third on the grid with probably the best qualifying lap I have personally ever driven. If we thought that was bad, however, we were going to be in for a shock come race day!
After qualifying, myself and my engineer Geoff went through our plan for Sunday and what we could do with the car for the race – and with a night to sleep on everything and a few changes to the set-up to get the #77 back in the window, I felt pretty good about our prospects. I focused on nailing the start and got a good jump heading down into Turn One, almost pulling alongside Gabby Chaves but with not quite enough room to squeeze past, I had to lift off and settle into third behind Peter Dempsey.
It soon became obvious, though, that not only did we not have the pace to challenge the leaders – we didn’t even have the pace to put any distance between ourselves and the rest of the pack! Initially, Carlos Muñoz was all over me until he dropped it at Turn Five, after which it was Zach Veach for the next 30 laps before Muñoz again piled on the pressure at the end. It was just a constant onslaught, and with no speed to fight with I had to concentrate on being inch-perfect, positioning my car well and not making any mistakes. It turned out this was just about enough to get the job done and we crossed the finish line in third.
Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a great loser, but to come away from a race like that with a podium after being so far off the pace, deep down I was pretty proud. We maximised our performance on the day, dug deep and rescued something from what could have been a disaster. Sometimes that’s all you can do in sport, no matter who you are or what result you think you deserve.
The guys have since been working hard to diagnose exactly what went wrong and where our practice pace went. An issue was uncovered and we also analysed the rest of our weekend to help better deal with this kind of situation in the future. Thank you to the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team for all their efforts in tricky circumstances. We hung on in there when we were on the ropes and dug out a result, and now we have to be ruthless again at Baltimore and take everything we can and more.