Because I had missed quite a bit of practice time in the morning session, plus with the completely different track conditions, I was not too sure what to expect. In the morning, the track was completely dusty with no grip, because we were the first cars out, and by the time we headed out to qualify the IndyCars had had two practices and had put a lot of rubber on the circuit, so the track had a ton more grip than it had previously.
It's really hard for the drivers and engineers to anticipate what's it's going to be like, especially with such a drastic difference. I was going three seconds a lap faster than what I had done in the morning. I can't say qualifying was easy. I had only turned about five laps at speed in practice and then to come out and push really hard and find your marks when you are going much faster than when you were previously out there isn't the easiest of circumstances.
Usually, you progressively improve on your time so you get used to the conditions and the limits of the track and the car, so that when you enter qualifying you know what to expect. In this case, it was the opposite, I didn't have time to cruise around forever because with only 15 minutes in the session you have to get right on it and get it done, so it wasn't easy.
During qualifying, my engineer Brandon Fry was on the radio telling me what Guy Smith was doing in the Dyson car, as we were exchanging fast laps. I was pushing as hard as I could to grab pole position, giving it all I had, but then on my last lap I over pressured the brakes a little bit and the rear stepped out and I gently tapped the wall with the left rear.
I don't know if that lap would have been good enough to beat Guy, but I was certainly trying to! Hats off to him and the Dyson team – they did a heck of a job in qualifying. I think we proved that all it takes is two cars to put on a show.
Then came race day. I think it was a perfect day for Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing. We couldn't have asked for more coming out of Sebring and our first DNF.
Lucas laid the groundwork by getting by the Dyson car early and then we had a caution period, which helped us in our one-stop strategy. After that, the race just unfolded in the best way possible for us. The guys once again did an awesome job on the pit stop and that allowed us to gain even more time on second place. Still, while we had a nice lead and it may have looked easy for us from the outside, it wasn't.
After a few laps in my stint, they asked me to start saving fuel and hitting a certain fuel number. It's not always easy to do so, because you're managing traffic, trying to do a decent lap time and saving fuel all at the same time. It can be a little nerve-wracking because it's so easy to lose your concentration. But, in the end, it all worked out and we just brought it home.
The win meant a lot to everyone on the team. The crew deserved it so much after all the hard work they put into it since the start of the season. I'm happy for our Aston Martin engineer John Ogden, who flies in for each race, as well as for our partners Michelin and Aston Martin. Sebring didn't go the way we wanted to so to win the Long Beach Grand Prix is redemption at its best.
Looking back over the weekend, it looks like we don't want to make it easy on ourselves but while we had some issues, we overcame them and that's the most important part.
We once again learned a lot this weekend about our Aston Martin and, combined with the momentum our win in Long Beach has given us, I think it bodes well for the remainder of the season. It's just unfortunate that our next race is only in July! Until then we will be keeping busy with testing and preparing for the remainder of the year.
Thanks for reading!