Watkins Glen is a track that every driver looks forward to. It’s an old-school, high speed track.
Not many tracks these days have that old school feel where you have a small sense of danger around the next corner.
It’s got a great rhythm; very fast with no room for error, so a little bit of risk can either be worth a little more lap time, or end in disaster.
This weekend we had a bit of everything. The first day was dry, second day was wet, and then race day had a bit of both. It’s nice when it’s either one or the other. When you get that in-between wet and dry, it makes it tough for the drivers and teams to make decisions on setups and tire choice.
We rolled off the truck strong; Ricky was P2 in the first session, within a tenth of P1. We had Max back with us this weekend. It was his first time back in the car since Sebring.
He was right up to speed, which is always impressive. It’s really difficult to be out of a car for months and jump right back in and be competitive.
Unfortunately qualifying was canceled due to weather. We would usually qualify in the wet, but it was deemed too wet and too dangerous. So we lined up on points, which put us fourth.
Race day came and it was pretty miserable. Every weather station had different predictions on what would happen. As everyone lined up on the grid, it started sprinkling. Not enough for wet tires, but enough to get the track wet and make the first few laps interesting on slicks.
Ricky started the race for us. It was a really tricky first few laps. He settled into a rhythm and by the end of his double stint was up to P2 and battling for the lead. I was watching from our pit box.
We have the onboard camera live, so I can watch that and get an idea of what it’s like through traffic, and this race looked like traffic was going to be one of the main elements. Max was up next and had a flawless stint battling with Pruett for the lead.
Just before the halfway mark I jumped in for what was planned to be a double stint. Our guys managed to beat the 01 car out of the pits and I was in the lead. A yellow quickly came out and we settled in for a restart.
I had the 5, 01, and 90 restarting behind me. Just after we went green, we started getting a few rain drops in the bus-stop and through the boot.
It’s tough being the leader in that situation because you’re the first one to the scene, and have to make a decision on how you want to attack the corner. Is it wet, is it dry, or is it damp?
I had a big moment into the bus-stop, the rear tires locked on the sealer and I decided to straight line it rather than try risk it and try make the corner. The 5 car made it, but the 01 had the same issue as me and followed me through the short-cut.
We settled back in and I was able to close back up to the 5 car leading into the next stop. They pitted two laps earlier than us, which gave us two laps longer on hot tires. Our guys had another awesome stop and we came out of the pits with a five second lead.
This is where things got interesting. About halfway through this stint, we started getting more and more rain around the track. It was all about risk vs reward at this point in the race. Stay out on slicks as long as you can or pit for rains to be safe. There were plenty of pros and cons to both.
All the cars behind us pitted for wets, and we stayed out for an extra two-three laps. Turn One through to the bus-stop was still dry, so you were able to build up enough heat in the tire to get through the rest of the lap. So overall, the lap time was still strong compared to the guys on wets.
We pitted for wets and put Ricky in for the finish. He had a solid 20-second lead for the next 30 minutes until they put out the red flag.
When they went to restart, Ricky was off like a bullet. He stretched out a good gap throughout that first lap and just touched a bit of paint leaving Turn Ten, which put him off.
It was an unfortunate end to the day, but we can take a lot of positives out of it. We had a strong car all weekend and in all conditions.
Plus, our guys beat everyone in the pits on every stop, which makes our jobs as drivers much easier! We’ll look forward to using those advantages throughout the final four races of the year.