It’s always been a dream of mine to drive an IndyCar. That’s what I’ve been working towards ever since I started karting when I was nine. Thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy, the Verizon IndyCar Series and Team Penske, that dream became a reality last week at Sonoma Raceway.
About a month ago I got an unexpected call from Tim Cindric asking if I would be interested in driving one of their cars thanks to a new rule allowing IndyCar teams extra testing if they use a current Indy Lights driver for at least 51% of the laps. I couldn’t believe it and immediately accepted the invitation to test for Team Penske.
Next stop Charlotte, N.C. and their shop to get fitted in Will Power’s car. The shop was amazing, the biggest race shop I’ve ever seen! We got to work right away getting me fitted into the car and going over everything I needed know including learning the functions of all the buttons and knobs on the wheel, the hand-clutch, starting the car, etc. I’m about the same size as Will, so I just used one of his seats. We didn’t have to change the belts or pedal positions so it made driver changes at the test very quick.
A few days before the test one of my longtime sponsors, Doug Mockett, called me and asked if I wanted to drive one of his historic cars that he keeps at Sonoma Raceway. It wasn’t just any car. It was John Watson’s Penske PC-4 Formula 1 car that won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. I had never driven anything faster than an Indy Lights car and within a few days I was going to drive a Grand Prix winning F1 car and the defending Championship winning IndyCar…not a bad week!!
The Penske PC-4 was awesome. Lots of power, h-pattern gearbox, no buttons on the steering wheel, hardly any grip and an amazing sound. It was a blast to drive, sliding all over the place! A real piece of American racing history. It also gave me a chance to familiarize myself with the track again. It had been a year since I had driven there so it was good to get a few laps in before the IndyCar test.
The day before the test I went to the track to double check the seat fit and go over data and video. I worked mainly with Will and his engineer, David Faustino. They were very helpful and spent a lot of time with me before and during the test answering any questions I had.
Will did the first few laps on Thursday morning to make sure everything was okay with the car. I got in shortly after and started my first outing. The car was very impressive right from my first lap. I was getting more comfortable and pushing harder each lap. It creates so much more downforce than anything I’d experienced. The cornering speeds were extremely quick! I drove the majority of the morning and we went through some different changes and compared data to my teammates.
I was very fortunate that my teammates had a huge amount of IndyCar and Formula 1 experience between them so there was lots I could learn from them. Each run, I was learning more about the car and where I could improve. I did a few more runs after lunch and then listened to Will’s radio for the rest of the day. I learned just as much listening to their debriefs as I did driving the car. It really was a great experience both in and out of the car.
I can’t thank Team Penske enough for the opportunity to drive their car. I never thought my first IndyCar test would be with Team Penske! I can’t wait to drive an IndyCar again, hopefully sooner rather than later! But for the moment all my focus is on winning the Indy Lights Championship with Juncos Racing at Mazda Raceway.
Thanks for reading,