What a weekend! I don't know where to start. It was such a roller coaster ride at Mosport International Raceway for the whole Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing team, between crashing early on Saturday morning and then starting from pole to winning the race; that in itself was a roller coaster.
Going back to Mosport this year meant a lot for our Muscle Milk team, after having dominated there last season. And after our result at Lime Rock two weeks ago, we really wanted to come out of there with a win. We wouldn't have been happy with anything less.
That said, you can imagine how I felt when I crashed our Aston Martin during Saturday morning practice. It was one of those incidents that would have happened anywhere else and the outcome would have been completely different. I like Mosport a lot but you have to stay within your lines there to be successful – and you need to have a good setup, because this place is daunting. It can bite you very quickly, as we saw.
What happened was that when I came out of Turn 9, I slid across the concrete patch there. It's an area where you always slide a little bit but this time it was a little too much. I corrected the car and it gripped right away which meant that I ended up over-correcting and that shot me off to the right side.
In that area, there is very little runoff and I couldn't avoid hitting the tire wall. I think a couple of elements came into play in terms of the damage caused to the car. The first being that it's Mosport – anywhere else, I would have ended up in the gravel trap. The other, the fact that the tires in the tire wall are loose and not covered like they are at some other tracks. Honestly, that's mostly what ended up causing damage on the Aston.
Fortunately, that damage wasn't too exhaustive as it wasn't structural. It was the right-rear suspension and the bodywork on the right side that suffered the impact. However, the Muscle Milk crew still had quite some work ahead of them, especially to make it out in time to get back on track in the last practice session before qualifying.
While the guys were working on the car, I was getting iced down for some sore ribs. That was probably one of the worst parts of the weekend! The folks at Motor Sports Medicine Group do a great job of taking care of us at the racetrack, but I'm not a big fan of getting iced down even if it did help. It's just not a fun experience.
Like any driver, I hate when incidents like the one we had Saturday morning happen. For one, we're a privateer team, and buying parts and pieces means something to us. I know Greg Pickett has been in racing for a long time and he knows these things can happen but we usually try to avoid it, obviously! Plus, I felt bad for the guys because it means so much more work for them.
On a more personal level, after a crash like that, you have to get it out of your system and that took me a little bit. I thought about it afterward to understand exactly what happened, what went wrong, what did I do?
We had been working on the setup that morning and I knew the car wasn't quite there yet, but sometimes you think once the tires are up to temperature maybe it will change, so you want to give it a couple more laps before making some changes. It's always such a fine line.
Once we were ready to head back out, I knew exactly what had happened and why, and most importantly I knew that we had improved the car and that it would be good. That gave me the right confidence as I got back out there. Plus, I have a lot of faith in our engineer Brandon Fry and our crew.
Once again the guys did an awesome job putting the car back together and we were able to get back on track with 14 minutes left in second practice. The crew showed a lot of strength and professionalism. They remain so calm and don't panic despite the pressure they are under. They're a really amazing group.
That's the emotional part of racing and where the passion comes in. Getting back out there after the morning we had and getting pole position just made everything so much sweeter. That's what it's about at the end of the day. Being able to reward the team and celebrate the numerous birthdays the team was celebrating that week with a pole position was one of the best gifts; the other was, of course, our win.
To top off my Saturday, Mark Bullitt, who drives the Muscle Milk car in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, had his first podium result. That was also very exciting for everyone. I've been coaching Mark throughout the season and it was great to see him do so well.
It all made for a very exciting Saturday. Little did we know that Sunday would be just as exciting, in a different way.
The race started out great for us as Lucas Luhr did a good job to build up quite a lead before the first caution period. But that's when our roller coaster ride started going downhill.
When the yellow came out the crew immediately got ready for our first pit stop and we were just waiting for the pits to open. For some reason, the call from race control that the pits were open came at the very last second. So much so that Lucas was past the entry point when they did open. That meant that we needed to wait until after all the GT cars had pit to do our stop per the rules.
That sent us behind everyone and 30 seconds behind the leader, which is frustrating when you previously had a 50-second lead. At that point, Lucas went from saving fuel earlier on to pushing as hard as possible to make up some ground.
By the time I got in the car we had taken the lead and kept it until the end. The drive to the checkered flag wasn't an easy one, though. We saved some fuel early on and then once the strategy played out we were able to start pushing again. But one of the toughest parts is dealing with the traffic. You have to pay close attention to it. There are always groups of GT cars that are battling together and the speed differences, especially at Mosport, are so dramatically different that it's easy to run up on a guy and hit him.
Winning at Mosport for a second year in a row and once again leading all on-track sessions was a fantastic result for Muscle Milk and it was our first time as a repeat winner which makes our win that much more special.
Finally, as I always say, it's great to give Greg and Penny Pickett a win, even if they had to enjoy it from afar that weekend. We certainly didn't make things easy on ourselves at Mosport, but it's the end result that counts.
Thanks for reading!