There has been a lot written over the years about the allure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After last weekend’s Brickyard Grand Prix, all I know is that that place is huge.
With Sprint Cup, Nationwide, TUDOR Championship, and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge all racing on the same weekend, the paddocks were remarkably spread out, and I got a pretty good workout on Thursday running back and forth between the TUDOR and Continental paddocks.
While Puma makes great racing shoes and great running shoes, neither is designed to do both, but I had put a few miles running in my racing shoes to make the sessions on time.
Although the schedule was crammed and I had a hard time fitting any kind of debriefs in with my engineers in both series, we ended up with two good cars for qualifying. I qualified both the GS and GTLM cars, starting with the Fall-Line Motorsports M3.
The car had a little more understeer on my first timed lap than I wanted, but the sticker tires usually balance out on the 2nd and 3rd laps. Unfortunately, I pushed a little hard in the brake zones on my 2nd timed lap and didn’t get the time out of the car that I wanted. Although we were on the front row, it was a little agonizing to miss the pole by only .017 of a second.
I hopped out of the M3 and walked straight down pit lane to get in the BMW Team RLL Z4 for my next qualifying session. The GTLM field is always tight, but this was especially true in Indy. My last lap was 1-2 tenths of a second faster than my previous best, which moved me up 4 positions. I was only .06 of a second off pole this time, but happy to be on the front row in such a highly competitive class.
My stint in the Continental race was fairly uneventful. I tried to take care of the car so that I could give my co-driver Trent Hindman a car he could fight with at the end of the race. Once I got out, I went straight to the trailer to change, since I needed to be ready to go for the GTLM race only 15 minutes after the checkered flew for the GS race.
Meanwhile, Trent had a great stint, moving up to P2 and further extending his lead in the championship. Sadly, I had to miss the podium as I was suiting up for the GTLM race while the podium ceremonies took place. As I rolled out of pit lane for the recon lap, I actually saw Trent and Robin Liddell on a big screen spraying champagne.
Mentally, it was a little strange as I have never had races so close together. Usually, there is some time to relax and celebrate after a podium finish, but I guess doing double duty requires some sacrifices.
On Sunday night, I went to watch the Figure 8 races at home in Jackson, Wyoming. I couldn’t help but think that there was as much contact in our TUDOR series race the previous Friday as there was in this Figure 8 race at the local fairgrounds. Yes, that’s a little bit of a joke, but our TUDOR race really did feel like a full-contact sport.
The biggest problem for us in the GTLM field is that the PC cars are only slightly faster than us when they have their pro drivers in the cars.
Naturally, the pro drivers qualify the cars, but the amateurs usually start, which means that a few of the PC cars are going slower than the GTLM field. As a prototype falls into the clutches of the GTLM field, it slows us down at the apex, but we have less power, making it difficult to get by on the straights. The short story is that it causes chaos among the GTLM class.
Although I was able to lead in the early part of the race with my BMW teammate Andy Priaulx running P2, we both suffered some major setbacks in traffic.
I dropped down to P4 or P5 as I had to check up mid-corner for a PC car, while Andy dropped further as a result of getting spun by a PC car.
I was following Patrick Long for a while in the No. 912 Porsche, and felt I had a little bit better pace. Unfortunately, turning quicker laps and passing are two different stories, so I was getting a little desperate as the time counted down.
I saw an opportunity to follow a DP car through on the outside of T12, although it would be a pretty dicey move. I assumed the DP would out-brake Long and cause him to check up, giving me an opportunity to squeeze alongside and have the inside for the next corner.
Unfortunately, the DP checked up to wait for the next corner, but I was already committed to my braking point. I slammed into the back of the DP, which bent our splitter to an unfavorable angle, giving me a lot of understeer for the rest of my stint. I dropped back a couple of spots and we ended up finishing a disappointing P7 after a very promising start.
It was an intense weekend at Indy, due to both a tight schedule and full-contact racing. Physically and mentally, it took me a couple days to feel normal again, just like coming home after a 24-hour race.
We’ll be fighting hard again next week at Road America, where the schedule is fortunately spread out between the two series.