Fortunately CGR liked enough in what they saw in me at Daytona to invite me back to drive the 02 in Sebring. My teammates were Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. These men have accomplished everything in racing that I have ever dreamt of. Tony has been sort of a race weekend mentor for me the past couple of years.
“Dixie” started the Sebring race off like a champ. He drove a little longer than usual but it was part of the plan. TK became ill over the weekend and we were told he was on limited availability. Scott and I were looking at doing extended stints. When it was my turn to drive I knew my mission. Of course I wanted to
keep impressing the Chip Ganassi Race Team, but the last thing the team needed was some young buck going out like a cowboy and wadding up the car. It’s a diabolical situation, but one that I have always embraced. I love driving under pressure and rising to the occasion I jumped in and took the car under the yellow flag. I had several respected IndyCar regulars in front of me and I knew the assignment on the restart. I am very confident on cold tires and I never really thought twice about it. I got a couple of guys going into turn 1 and even made an outside pass. By the end of two laps I was in first place! I didn’t place a wheel wrong the entire stint and when I was radioed to bring it in to hand it over to TK, I was going through turn 17 at a very rapid rate and my left rear tire blew out. It was definitely a big moment but I never lost control and had a pretty good save. I got out of the car soaked with sweat…but felt great! My adrenaline was pumping at a maximum rate! Nobody realized it, but the water bottle drink mechanism broke and our team wasn’t able to drink during the race. Plus, my helmet cooler apparatus didn’t work properly in my Bell helmet. So, I pulled it out of the top of my helmet and stuck it in the front of my helmet through the visor opening (make sure Mike Hull doesn’t find out I was doing this during the race haha).
My 2nd stint went fantastic and I had a minor miscue that shuffled me back to 8th place. I quickly got it together and put the hammer down and by the end of the stint drove it back into 1st place! I handed the car over to Scott Dixon for the final push for the win. We had some tough luck with the yellows and traffic and we finished in 6th place overall. I feel right at home with the Chip Ganassi Race Team and I think the relationship just feels very natural. This team has the same desire to be the best as I do – and we are both willing to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately for me, the team doesn’t have any openings on their IndyCar team. Going into Sebring, I was aware that the Sebring event was the last scheduled rehearsal for me with this team. I am doing everything possible to maintain the possibility of an IndyCar or sportscar opportunity. I think we opened a lot of eyes this past weekend – wish me luck!