Where to start! That was one crazy race in Baltimore. I've been doing this for a while and I've never seen anything quite like it! There was some good, some bad and some ugly!
Let's start out with the good.We headed into Baltimore with a couple of goals. The first was to clinch the Championship. We still had four races to go but we really wanted to do it in Baltimore.
Our luck has been so bad there that clinching the Championship was the perfect way to turn that around. Our second goal was to make it six wins in a row and establish a record, by breaking the one we set last season with five consecutive overall wins. Fortunately, we managed to fulfill both goals but it wasn't easy, that's for sure!
The weekend started off quite well for us as the Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03c performed nicely in qualifying and allowed us to capture the pole position for the race. I was very pleased with the session and how well the car performed.
Then came race day. What a day. Before I go any further, I'll start by what was said in the driver's meeting on Saturday morning about the start. We were to go side-by-side in the chicane, there were to be at least three rows formed past the chicane and once we were past the railway tracks we were to ‘go'.
That is exactly what I did. However, the car beside me didn't. He started accelerating in the chicane, when the green flag hadn't even been shown yet!
In every other racing series, the polesitter – who was me in this case – paces the field. I clearly wasn't pacing the field as a couple of cars in the left lane started accelerating and were actually ahead of me even before the green flag was waved. If this was the first time Chris Dyson jumped a start, I probably wouldn't be so mad with the situation, but he does it all the time and he's never been penalized for it. At least this time he did get a penalty for his actions, but it's too little too late.
On all of the starts, I did the same thing, which was by the rules. The initial start of the race and the first restart were identical, one was accepted and the other waved off. I'll let you be judge of that. We drive by the rules. We drive very hard and we compete very hard but by the rules and that's what we did.
A lot has been said already about the whole situation and I will leave it at that. I want to end the discussion and not fuel the fire more with this blog.
That said, I'm very sorry for the teams that were involved in the crash at the start and for the fans who didn't get to see too much racing. That whole part of the weekend was a real disaster.
Once we finally got the green flag, on what was the second restart, we only made it through a few corners before the yellow came out again. With a shortened race and an updated minimum drive time of six minutes, it was the perfect time to do what would be our one and only pit stop for fuel and a driver change.
Pitting this early and handing driving duties to Lucas Luhr meant that I was not going to drive one complete lap under green. How bizarre is that! That was definitely a first.
While my driving time was at an all-time minimum, I had no problem with it because it was the best strategy for the team in this situation. Lucas, as usual, drove a heck of a race and it wasn't easy.
The track didn't have a lot of grip and he even lost a few spots in one corner because the car slid on some fluid that was on the track. It made for an interesting end to the race. I'll admit, I wasn't worried at all at this point as I knew Lucas would make his way back to the front and that's what he did.
We finally broke our string of bad luck in Baltimore, established a series record and took our second consecutive championship. We can't really ask for more coming out of this race weekend!
It's very rewarding, especially to clinch this early, with three races left this season. Once again I was asked if the lack of competition took anything away from this championship. My answer to that question is no. We're still running as hard as we can in every session and most importantly we are finishing races. It all comes down to reliability.
That was one of the issues we had last year but since the Baltimore race last season we haven't had a mechanical failure at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and I think that speaks for our organization around Greg Pickett. We have great engineering and great mechanics that are doing an awesome job preparing the car and the reliability we've had is thanks to their hard work and attention to detail.
A lot goes into winning a championship, the drivers do their part but everyone on the team has an important part to play and this championship is a testimony to how great this team is. I'm very proud of all of our accomplishments. Whatever the future holds for this team, I'm confident we'll bring a good package and that we will have a lot of fun.
For now, however, even if we've already won the championship, we still have a few goals in mind, one of which is trying to get Lucas to 50 career ALMS wins. He's up to 47 now and we have three races to go. It won't be easy, but we'll certainly give it a try!
Thanks for reading,