Finishing second a big relief
It may have been super-hot and muggy, but last weekend was a great weekend for me. I finally got my first IndyCar podium in Race 1 at Houston. What a great feeling to finish second! It also felt like a big relief; I've waited for so long to have this.
It was a great race. We qualified sixth but started fifth because of an engine penalty, and then made some moves to go forward. I passed Simon Pagenaud a couple of times for position, so that was pretty cool. We had some issues with our brakes overheating and even had the right-rear shock break during the race, but we managed those issues well and brought the car home for my best-ever IndyCar finish. The team and everybody did such a fantastic job.
Some of my Nuclear Clean Air Energy sponsors were at the track for the race, and it was really fun getting to celebrate with them. AREVA brought some students from Texas A&M, and I told them they brought me luck and that they all had to come back to the track on Sunday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to celebrate too much Saturday night because we had to come back and race again on Sunday.
The track was really bumpy and I had some blisters on my hands from Saturday, but I was still extremely disappointed when we didn't get to qualify on Sunday morning because of rain and track conditions. That meant we had to start the race based on entrant's points at the start of the weekend. I didn't even get the benefit of all the points I earned in Saturday's race and had to start back in 17th.
I was very disappointed because I knew the car was really good and that we would have had a really good shot at starting close to the front again. We had standing-starts for both races, so qualifying made even more of a difference than usual.
The first part of the race didn't go so well for me. [Graham] Rahal didn't see me going into one of the turns and caused me to have to bail over the chicane. That alone dropped me back in the field, but then to make matters worse I ended up getting a drive-through penalty for "unavoidable contact." I still managed to finish 10th but think I might have finished in the top five again without that penalty.
I feel like this last part of the season has been really good for me. Things have really started coming together from Mid-Ohio on. We finished 11th there and haven't finished outside the top 10 since. I was super-happy with my fifth-place finish on my birthday in Baltimore, but to come to Houston and finish second was a great accomplishment for me and felt even better.