Three for three. What a way to start the year!
We came into the year with a lot of confidence, but also a few question marks. It’s always tough heading into a season with a brand new car, especially starting off with our two toughest races.
Once we got through Daytona and Sebring without a single issue, we knew we were going to have a good shot at keeping our winning ways at Long Beach.
Cadillac, Dallara, and ECR did an incredible job putting together this brand new Cadillac DPi.V-R. Dominant right out of the box.
On paper, this weekend in Long Beach would look like it was by the book, but it was anything but that.
We led both practice sessions, Ricky got the pole, and we won the race. But behind the result, there were a few big obstacles we had to overcome.
Our lead engineer, Brian Pillar, was fighting some health issues and was forced to miss the weekend. We had our assistant to the engineer, Adam Banet, step up to the plate to make the calls for the weekend.
It was a change of pace for everyone, but the good thing about our group of guys is that everyone supports and trusts each other. Brian was on call 24/7 from Indy for setup and strategy talks, and everyone was behind Adam for his first time calling the race.
We rolled off the truck very strong. We led both practices comfortably and Ricky was able to get the pole.
Long Beach has been a great track for us in the past. We’ve had two wins the past two years and a second the year before. It’s a tough track to pass, so Ricky getting pole was a big advantage heading into the race.
With the small fuel tanks that we have this year, we were looking at a two stop race if we didn’t have yellows.
The tricky part with that was that the GT cars could all do it on one stop. Needless to say, this kept the guys up the night before the race figuring out strategy.
When the green flag dropped, we realized we had a pretty big fight on our hands.
The top five or six cars were all pretty close on pace. Ricky was able to control the race from the front and went into fuel saving mode almost immediately.
With the added cars this year, we were seeing a lot more action on track. All of the yellows early on set us up for a one stop race. On an early yellow, the 2 car took a gamble and took that time to make their first stop, hoping for a well timed yellow later on to help them cycle to the front.
That yellow fell just right. When it was time for the rest of the field to make their one stop, the 2 car only had a much quicker fill time and jumped us in the pits.
We left the pits second in Prototype, but we were all buried deep in the GT field because they were able to make their stop before us. When we restarted, it was extremely hectic.
I was in a pretty big battle with the 31 car for the first few laps of that restart. We went back and forth as we went through traffic. As we left Turn 8, he got pinched on the outside and I was able to get by to get back to P2.
Once we got in clean air, it was just about chasing down the 2 car. We were very close on pace. The only way I was going to get by was if he made a mistake or got caught up in traffic, so my only goal was to stay as close as possible and wait for that opportunity.
As we got to the back of the GTD pack, there were two guys battling leaving the hairpin. Ryan tried to go to the inside and he must not have seen the 2 car. He drove him right to the wall and Ryan had to lift, which gave me a big run. He went to defend the inside and left me room to go to the outside.
I knew our car was strong under braking, and I knew that was going to be our only shot at getting by.
I was able to make it stick and get the lead with about five laps to go. I got a couple breaks in traffic on the next two laps which helped open up the gap to get the win.
It was an awesome moment for all of us. To win three in a row to start off the year and win three in a row at Long Beach, it’s unbelievable.
We had lots of family and friends at the track along with our guests from Cadillac and Konica Minolta there to celebrate with us.
Can’t wait for Texas!