It's been a hectic and crazy few days since the checkered flag fell in Baltimore, with the joy of winning coupled with the exciting news that I will get my first taste of an IndyCar later this month!
What a weekend it was for the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) crew as well! For the second time in three races, we were able to sweep the weekend and take maximum points toward the championship to put ourselves well and truly back in the title hunt with just two rounds remaining – a task that had seemed almost unthinkable when we were over 60 points down just a few months ago...
I arrived in Baltimore on the Thursday to be greeted by some extremely hot and humid conditions. Fortunately, the paddock there is in the convention center, which means the crews can work on the cars in the comfort of the air conditioning that is provided. I walked the track on the Thursday evening, before an early night in preparation for the 45-minute free practice session the following day.
Friday practice ran really smoothly, and I was able to quickly acclimatize to the circuit as we began to dial in the No. 77 car. We had a couple of good runs, my engineer made a few tweaks to the set-up and by the end of the session I was very happy with the car and we both felt like we had a good base to work from for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday morning arrived and we had another practice session to continue our preparations ahead of qualifying, which would take place a few hours later. The track was a little cold, which made obtaining any real information difficult, but we made the most of it and by the end of the session we were satisfied with what we had going into qualifying.
The qualifying session was marred by red flags and incidents which made life very tricky for everybody, and when a final "red" came out with only a few minutes left on the clock, it quickly became apparent that it would be a last-ditch shoot-out for pole position. With just two laps to get it done, we rolled out of pit-lane and on my final lap we were able to take it by half-a-second. That was an incredible feeling that I'll never forget!
Despite the excitement of claiming pole, however, we knew we had only done half the job and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking through our strategy for the next day.
Race day arrived, and my car was hooked up from the moment the green flag dropped. Notwithstanding a number of early safety car periods and restarts, I was able to control proceedings and bring home our third victory of the year, closing to within 11 points of the championship lead in the process. I owe a big thank you to the whole SPM crew for giving me a great car and doing a fantastic job all weekend.
It was an amazing feeling after the win in Toronto, the huge battle in Mid-Ohio and now another dominant win in Baltimore. We have really begun to catch our stride, and if I have learned one thing this year, it is to always keep believing no matter what the situation, the position or the task ahead.
Itruly have so much confidence not only in my own ability but in that of everybody around me. We have just kept fighting back at every single opportunity and maximizing each weekend – and with that same relentless effort and confidence, we will attack the final races and leave nothing on the table.