Wow. What a race! I think it was the best day in the Muscle Milk team's history to date but it was also probably one of the toughest races I've done in my career and winning it was the perfect reward, especially after our race last year.
To fully comprehend what this win means for all of us at Pickett Racing, though, I have to take you back to last year at Road America where we lost the win with just a few corners left to go.
Road America in 2010 was our first race after sitting out Mid-Ohio due to Greg's crash. We arrived there, pretty much with a brand-new Porsche RS Spyder that had never been on track.
No one expected us to be fighting for a victory back then. It was thanks to our fuel economy that we were in a position to win because our Spyder was at a disadvantage to the turbocharged prototype cars on the long straights of Road America.
We were so close to winning last year, but, in the final turns, a GT car slowed me down and the faster Drayson prototype just flew by me and all I could do was watch. It would be a lie to say that finishing second didn't hurt. It did and we were all still a little bitter about it heading to Road America this year.
Entering the race at Elkhart Lake last week, we all thought about it, and we knew that the only way to redeem ourselves from our previous trip to Road America was to win this year.
We started the weekend off on the right foot by grabbing our second pole position of the season and leading both practice sessions earlier in the day. It wasn't easy, though. There was a lot of work to do between Lucas Luhr and myself together with the engineers to find the right combination for our Muscle Milk Aston Martin LMP1 car.
When you look at the layout of the Road America track, it initially looks like you can easily go fast but to really go fast it's very, very difficult. It's a circuit that I think is very demanding for the drivers in terms of setup. There are a lot of different things that you need to make sure the car does right in order to go fast.
We actually made the car more uncomfortable to drive. Sometimes you need to sacrifice comfort for speed and that's what we did. The comfort becomes secondary when you have a fast car and getting pole at Road America was very rewarding.
However, our biggest reward came the following day. We woke up to some rain on Saturday morning so we only did a few laps in warm up to ensure everything was OK with our Aston Martin. There was no use in turning more laps than we did because the track was wet and they were forecasting dry conditions for the race.
I remember writing after Mid-Ohio how tough that race was mentally, well this one was probably even tougher, in a different way, because it was push, push, push, save fuel and repeat.
Lucas started off the race and, unfortunately, fell to second when the car driven by Steven Kane got by him. We were not too worried with that, knowing that our main championship rivals were behind us and that there was still plenty of racing to come in this four-hour race.
At one point in the race, before the second caution period, Lucas had built a gap of over one minute on the Dyson car, and it happened a few times during the event that we'd build a lead only to see it vanish with a yellow flag. It's safe to say the yellows fell in the other team's favor.
However, if it wasn't for the caution period with about 30 minutes to go, I don't know how exciting the end of the race would have been.
The yellow did come out at a good time for us though, we were working on saving fuel knowing that it would be tight to make it to the end. What I didn't know at the time was that the engineers were actually hoping for one extra lap of yellow to be sure we could make it, but we didn't get that lap so I had to start saving fuel.
Saving fuel is one thing, but my engineer, Brandon Fry, was on the radio telling me to "push hard, save fuel." It's just a little contradictory and not an easy task, especially when you have your closest competitor breathing down your neck!
At one point, with Guy Smith getting closer and closer, Brandon told me on the radio to forget about the fuel and push hard.
I had to be very aggressive in traffic and manage it extremely well and smart and that was tough. I had to take a lot of chances, which is not something you really want to do in a four-hour race but we had to. We really had to give it all we had all while hoping the traffic would stay out of the way and not mess things up!
We ran almost mistake free, because I had to push so hard, I had a couple of really close calls but I had to push like that otherwise there was no way we were going to make it and we had to stay in the lead, it was very critical.
With fewer and fewer races to go, it's very important that we score maximum points and keep gaining on Dyson Racing in the Championship.
Someone asked me after the race if I had been thinking about 2010. I did a little bit under yellow but after that the only thing I was thinking about was Guy Smith, a lot, and how do I keep driving as fast as I can and getting my fuel number.
I also thought that this race was ours, all we needed to do was bring it home. It was tough. Guy put up quite a fight, I'm just happy that we came out the victor.
To come so close last year and now winning it with the closest overall finish in the American Le Mans Series history, it's unbelievable. That said, to have such a close finish after a four-hour endurance race – that felt like a sprint race – that's even more unbelievable.
It was a very special day for the whole team and for Greg and Penny Pickett, especially after last year. I've never seen Greg so emotional after a race.
I know it was much more stressful for the team watching than for me driving but it was a fun day and Greg always tells us that we're there to have fun. I sure did and I would think the fans had fun watching it as well!
Thanks for reading!