Long Beach is a special, special place. It’s the kind of race I grew up watching and seeing my racing heroes win there.
As an American driver, you have a list of races that mean the most and that one day you’d like to win—Long Beach is right up there with races like the Indy 500, Daytona, Sebring, just iconic American races.
I’ve had so many good races there that haven’t produced results that finally getting that win just feels so good.
The track itself is great, don’t get me wrong, but the event as a whole is even better. Being able to go back there and fill the stands again and feel the crowd cheer, that’s what makes Long Beach Long Beach and that’s a huge reason why you want to win there.
It’s been cool to see the crowd evolve over the years there too.
When I first started going to Long Beach to race, it was very much an IndyCar crowd, but now, I think we’ve seen that change. There were so many people that stayed late on the Saturday to watch us race and we could see them and hear them from the podium and that moment is really cool.
I got to spend some extra time with the crowd too post-race! Usually, after the race, if you finish on the podium, your car stops near where the podium is instead of at tech, but somehow in the shuffle of post-race I got sent to tech instead—and I wasn’t going to argue with them!
But because we have to cross the track to get from our IMSA paddock to the podium, I got to walk on the track through turn 10 and the hairpin, where there were so many fans, and all of them cheering—just bleachers of fans going absolutely crazy. It was amazing to see all of them up on their feet clapping and cheering.
I think this race was also just a great one to win because the street courses especially rely on everyone on the team so much.
The races are so short that there’s no room or margin for error. In a standard race, if you have a little bobble, you have some time to recover. But, on a street course, you have a single pitstop—and a short one at that—there is no room for a mistake.
You have to have a good driver change, a strong strategy, no mistakes from the pit crew, when those all come together and you have a day like we had, they’re pretty rare, so you tend to cherish them. And it makes for the greatest part of the race—when you drive past the pit crew after the checkered flag and see all the guys standing on the wall cheering and how happy they are.
They don’t get as much recognition that we all do, even if we finish second or third, Madison and I still get to stand on the podium, but after the race win, that’s the team’s moment. It makes me happy to be a part of that for this whole Paul Miller Racing team.
Speaking of Madison, I know how much winning at Long Beach meant to him and I’m happy that I could share in that with him.
His mom, Melanie, grew up in Southern California and always talked about how important that race was. Before he came down to Long Beach he was able to go out and spend time with his grandparents because they still live in the area.
It didn’t add any pressure to do well, we all want to win, we’re all motivated every weekend, but the reward was sweeter for all of us because it was sweeter for Madison.
It was a long stretch between wins for us—608 days from Daytona of 2020 until Long Beach, and every single one of us on the team missed that winning feeling. Hopefully we don’t have to go another 608 before the next one!