4.26.13 – Long Beach, for me, was a strong result but still not where I want to be. I felt quite confident leading into the event. I love racing on street tracks and Long Beach seems to be the king of street tracks. It was an awesome event, and the track was so cool! I was amazed at how pretty the fountain turn was, but at the same time, it's all very challenging; it was easy to absorb yourself in the atmosphere. It was for sure one of the most fun events I have been part of and cool to listen to my dad's stories about the place and the history that's behind it.
Practice started out quite well. It's a tough track to learn and I had never been there before so it was certainly demanding in getting up to speed. However, I felt like we were rather quick and definitely had the pace to run up front. During practice we were all incredibly close with the Belardi team looking the strongest, however, I did not foresee qualifying playing out the way it did.
Although I felt confident with our pace going into qualifying, I was also prepared for the fact that it was going to be a tough battle for pole position. I certainly would never have predicted just how tight it ended up being with the top four qualifying within 0.07 of a second. This was the tightest qualifying session I have been a part of. It was a mixed feeling for me; I was happy to be so close to getting the pole, but I was disappointed to be so close to the pole time and yet be in third place. I took the positives away from this looking forward to the race… since we were all so close, I figured any of us had the chance to win the race.
Our race started off reasonably well; however, it became apparent very quickly that it was going to be difficult to pass. I came out of the first corner in third place and stayed in that position for the rest of the race. I was pushing as hard as I could the whole time in the hope that maybe someone would make a big enough mistake and I could slip through. Unfortunately, I ended up brushing the wall quite a few times but I didn't think about any of it while I was racing. It was really interesting to see on TV when I watched it, and I think I need to reel myself in and stay off the walls in the future. I was happy to finish in third place and bank some good points. Although, I must admit I was a little frustrated to run in third place the whole race and not have the ability to move forward and fight for the win.
Long Beach was a great learning curve for me, and I have come away from there feeling more comfortable with the direction I want to go in with regards to the car and my driving.
My approach for Barber this weekend will be a little different… aggressive as ever but smooth, and I'm very confident it will work. Our pre-season testing ended strongly at Barber and we were the quickest here. I know our Andretti Autosport team will be quick, however, the key will be adjusting to the changing track conditions throughout the weekend. There are a lot of points on offer with the two-race format. I will be reeling myself back into the championship fight; the start to the championship for me didn't go according to plan. I feel that all of the rookies this year are having a difficult time adjusting to racing the Indy Lights car. Once we all figure it out, I think there will be more championship contender's popping up in the later part of the year – the same way it happened last year.
I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It will be a fun event at Barber Motorsports Park, and it will be our first proper road course race this year. I will be staying open minded and I'm looking forward to seeing how this weekend plays out.