As soon as the Verizon IndyCar Series announced it would be going back to Road America I circled it as a race I really wanted to do. About a month ago I signed with Ed Carpenter Racing to do all of the road and street courses for the remainder of the 2016 season including Road America. I raced there many times in Skip Barber and USF2000 but I hadn’t been there since 2012 so I couldn’t wait to get back. We tested there the week before the race and it was a blast. The speeds are so high and you have so many fast corners it’s a thrill to drive.
The weekend started out fairly well, we ended up 14th in the first practice but we knew we had some time left in the car and some areas I could improve on. It’s such a long track with so many corners that if you improve the car just a bit it can make a big difference on the stopwatch. We made some improvements throughout the first half of the second practice but then tried a few things that didn’t help and we weren’t able to put a very good lap in so we finished the second session near the back. We went back on those changes for the final practice, Josef and I were 13th and 14th.
Qualifying is probably the hardest session of the weekend. You have to get everything out of the car and cannot make any mistakes if you want to advance through to the fast six. It’s also the first time you get to run on the Firestone Reds, which have an incredible amount of grip. This is the area I’m still struggling with, getting the most out of the red tires. I qualified 17th for the race.
Starting that far back we had a few different strategies we could choose from. I pitted pretty early on lap 8 which meant I had to save fuel throughout the race to make it to the end but we were able to get out of traffic and into clean air. I passed a few cars on track and during the pit cycles thanks to some great stops to move up to 12th before the yellow came out near the end of the race. Once it went green it was crazy! Cars trying to pass each other in everywhere, even on the grass! It was great racing. It took me a couple attempts but I got by Munoz in turn 5 and then Pagenaud there a few laps later. I finished right behind my teammate in 9th, which is my best finish in IndyCar so far, and my first top-10. I was happy to finish in the top-10 but I think if we can qualify better we can hopefully start fighting to get into the top-5.
Toronto is up next. I won both Indy Lights races there last year so hopefully my good fortune up north continues! I have to thank all the guys at Ed Carpenter Racing, Fuzzy’s Vodka and Rising Star Racing for all of their hard work and support.