Laguna Seca is one of the most challenging races on the schedule. It is a narrow, very slippery, and technical racetrack where passing lapped cars can be very difficult and many times rewards patience.
The track is very hard on rear tires and making sure you have a car that is competitive and consistent over a long run is very important.
Practice time is always very difficult at Laguna between trying to get two drivers in the car, managing setups with a rapidly degrading tire, and managing clear laps without traffic.
Helio [Castroneves] and the other two drivers had gotten a few test days there before the weekend, so I was lucky that I was able to get a large portion of the practice time.
Practice went well and we made lots of changes to the car to try have a quick qualifying setup and a very different but solid race setup.
Helio was the guy for qualifying this weekend and he would be going up a stacked group of qualifying drivers.
During the session it seemed that the lap time came quite early in the session and Helio gave everything and put us in a solid third place starting spot just behind Jordan [Taylor] on pole and Dane [Cameron] who qualified second.
The race got off to a bit of a bizarre start with a bit of a shuffle in the front with a massive stackup in the back of the pack, sending championship contender Joao Barbosa into a spin after being hit by Mikhail Goikhberg and into the path of a number of GT cars.
As they say, cautions breed cautions, and on the restart we had another accident just exiting the final corner which led to another yellow.
Finally, after the first 30 minutes under yellow, we had a clean restart and were racing! Helio settled into second place behind Dane in the No. 6 car and they were closely chased by the No. 10 and the two Mazdas who were very strong all weekend.
He worked at managing the tires and seemed to be confidently holding his place once the No. 10 car had dropped out with gearbox troubles.
I got in the car at the next pit stop and it would just be a one stop race from there. The first stint was a bit of a learning process and it was very difficult at the end of the stint to hang on to the tires.
The No. 54 was off sequence and very strong at the end of the stint which pushed us to go even harder on the tires.
The final stint came and the team made a great call when to pit and we managed to jump a few cars on the in and out laps which put us back in the top three.
After a good back and forth with [Juan Pablo] Montoya in the No. 6 car and overtaking the No. 55 which spun out of the lead, we settled into 2nd place behind the No. 22 of [Pipo] Derani for the final half of the last stint.
The No. 54 was right behind us again but I felt quite comfortable in our ability to hold him behind us. We made it to four to go and the No. 54 was still right behind.
Heading into turn 1, I saw the two Ferraris having a big battle. The WeatherTech Ferrari pushing its way through, the two collided and appeared to have hooked together just in front of me.
The two pushed each other well wide in the corner and the seas parted, so I decided to commit to the inside of the two sliding Ferraris.
Once I had committed to the inside of the corner, I did not expect the Ferrari to be able to turn back into the apex.
As I was approaching the middle of the corner and was committed to the inside, the Ferrari rotated and squeezed the corner tighter than I anticipated and we made contact.
The contact broke the right rear corner of our car and that was the end of our day.
What was looking to be a positive, second-place finish ended in a great disappointment. It was such a hard fight with all of the difficult conditions and some really racing, the team did an outstanding job.
So to come so close to a solid result was very upsetting and frustrating to have not closed the deal.
The only thing we can do is look forward to Motul Petit Le Mans and try to finish the year off with a win and set ourselves up with some momentum for the 2019 season where we will undoubtedly be fighting for a championship!