Saturday here in Long Beach was perfect as far as the weather was concerned. The sun was out, the wind was only a light breeze, and the temperature was in the mid to high 70's. An absolute perfect day to spend at the racetrack. I am glad it was warm this morning as I had qualifying at 8:45 and I was in the first group to run.
My qualifying wasn't exactly perfect though. We made some changes to the car overnight and while we made big gains in one area, we really hurt another are of the car that made it difficult for me to push on the new tires. As a result I struggled to get the new tires in quickly enough. Then the session was interrupted. For a crash? Nope. For a medical emergency from a spectator on the outside of the track. The only way they could get an ambulance out there was to stop our session and drive the ambulance across the track!!! That was a first for me. I have never had a session stopped for a spectator medical emergency. I have been at a track when the races were stopped because a helicopter crash landed next to the track ( in England- everyone was OK).
When the session restarted, I had 4-5 laps to go quicker so that I would move up the order from 6th place. My first lap wasn't an improvement and I was pushing quite hard on the second when, at the end of the back straight, the car stepped out under braking. I was pushing the envelope and I just caught the bumps differently (and the change to car made it much more difficult on the bumps). As a result, I nosed the car into the tire wall on the outside. Luckily, I bounced back out, was able to restart the car and drive back to the pitlane. I had broken the front wing, but not bent anything else. However, it was lucky I could drive back to the pits as if I had caused a full course caution, my fastest lap time would have been deleted- moving me back even farther. After I crashed, a lot of drivers improved pushing me down the order to 9th in my group. This means that, just as in the second race at St. Petersburg, I will start in 18th.
I am looking forward to the race tomorrow as I showed in St. Pete that with some luck and chaos ahead of me (Long Beach should easily provide as much carnage as St. Pete) I can still race up and finish in the top-10. I will race smart and take whatever result is available to me, but will still be pushing to put on a good show for my hometown fans.
Now it is off to dinner with some friends and family before a good night's rest and strong race in the morning. My race starts at 9:40 A.M. and will be shown live on Indycar.com.
Here's a photo from Michael Zampelli's Flickr page of me today at Long Beach.