It has become our league’s standard for our races at Phoenix to have quite a few cautions at the start and then generally a long green flag run. This seasons opener at the one-mile oval in Arizona was no exception.
We had a decent sized field of 28 drivers show up to take to the track and practice showed (with multiple crashes) that this was going to be a race of attrition. Qualifying was as close as ever with the top three drivers being seperated by less than a tenth of a second. Yang Ou started the season off with bonus points by taking the pole with John Paquin, Tim Holgate, Tim Doyle, and Larry Foyt filling out the rest of the top 5. I made a small mistake in qualifying which slowed what should have been my fastest lap resulting in a disappointing 10th place starting position.
Lap 1 of the race didn’t last very long as the caution came out before we’d even made it down the backstretch. I assumed it was going to be a long race and settled in, preparing myself for multiple cautions. When we went back to green flag racing Firestone Indy Lights driver James Davison and Firestone Indy Lights Manager of Business Development Tony George Jr. made it three-wide as they took an aggressive line to my inside. I lifted and let them through. As we came back around the next lap James’ car began to understeer resulting in a late spin. I was about 8 inches off Tony’s gearbox and tried to pick the correct line through. Unfortunately James came back across the track and collected me ending my race on lap 7. A disappointing result as I felt I had one of the best cars on track.
The race continued to be crash-filled with a yellow every ten or so laps for most of the day. Yang Ou, Tim Doyle, and Tony George Jr. all managed to head up the field leading 81, 21, and 36 laps respectively. Tony tried his best to retain the lead but found it impossible to keep the super fast Yang Ou behind him. Yang managed to take the lead with Tim Doyle taking over second place not long after. This battle would turn out to be quite a show. The two drivers exchanged the lead multiple times each lap for the last 15 laps or so. I was watching from my computer thinking to myself “This is amazing!” It was hard to tell who was going to win and the wild-card of lap traffic got thrown into the mix on the last couple laps, making it that much more fun to watch. In the end Yang stayed out front and took the win by a small margin of .112 of a second. The top 5 came out as follows: Tim Doyle P2, Tim Holgate P3, Tony George Jr P4, and Kevin Cress P5.
Tonight we move on to our first road course of the season, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We haven’t raced here in sometime and I’m quite excited to be back. This track brings back fond memories as I battled for the lead on this hilly track in California with IZOD IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson. I managed to keep him behind me for about 12 laps before the pressure got to me and I made a mistake sending him to victory lane. I hope to have the same success this season but judging by resent testing times I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. New comers James Davison and Andrew Kristensen have shown they are the class of the field running well over a second faster than my best lap time.
If you’re a member on iRacing be sure to check out our race tonight via spectator mode. I hope to have good news soon for those of you who want to watch but don’t have an iRacing membership. So stay tuned!