St. Petersburg, Fla. What a beautiful city. Hopping off the plane from frigid Indianapolis into the 80 degrees we had Monday was a welcoming “Hello," but the real hospitality was still to come.
This was my first INDYCAR media event of this kind and it was a blast. The Andersen RacePark crew had everything done up very professionally and the karts were ready for everything we gave them, which was a severe beating at times. I was there representing Firestone Indy Lights, the final step before the IZOD IndyCar Series on the Mazda Road to Indy development program, as was my friend Peter Dempsey.
Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud were reppin’ the IZOD IndyCar Series, and Shannon McIntosh, Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham were there for USF2000. We also had Shea Holbrook from the Acura World Challenge and former Firestone Indy Lights driver Anders Krohn there, too.
After the press conferences and interviews wound down it was nice to meet and visit with some of the other drivers. The big personalities of drivers made this event a great time for me. Having the opportunity to hang out and just kid around in a relaxed setting made the great weather that much more enjoyable.
I was given the honor of being the “pro" driver for the Bay News 9 Team. Not many teams had a member with a personality more outgoing, friendly and competitive than my correspondent, Virginia Johnson. Virginia unfortunately couldn’t participate because she is expecting her first child, so I gave her a rain check on this one (knowing that this would in turn bring more track time for me). “First or last" was our official team motto while most of us had decided that “miss the jet dryer" was more hip.
On to the action …
The Le Mans style start made for an interesting first lap. Being quick on my feet, I won my first and only race of the day, as I quickly surrendered positions to the Irish man Peter Dempsey, and the Viking Anders Krohn. I did have a nice battle with Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot for a few laps, which featured numerous attempts by Marco to shut other drivers’ engines off, and ended with Simon making a new path across the track, which the track steward deemed illegal. I liked his innovation … as you’ll hear about in a minute.
As the action heated up, so did the trash talking between news crews. At one point I thought we were moments away from having an “Anchorman" throw down Ron Burgundy style. Things quickly settled once lunch was served.
For those of you who have seen Brad Keselowski’s tweets from the car, that is nothing compared to Marco’s video tweeting while kart racing.
Deep into the race, the Bay News 9 mobile had worked itself into fourth position with the final two stints remaining. Making little to no progress on Spencer Pigot’s AR1.com team two-lap lead in the fifth stint, I decided to lay my cards on the table in the final run. Some on-track hand signals with Simon allowed us to get hooked up as drafting partners. Creatively, we mastered the circuit in half the time of the other drivers. Unfortunately, after the third consecutive lap of short cutting half of the track, we got busted and ultimately had to settle for fourth. Ricky Bobby would have been proud though.
Thanks to INDYCAR and Andersen RacePark for the opportunity.