"I guess it's still hard to believe."
I guess it’s still hard to believe. We came from third in the championship to take the title in the final race in Sonoma. We’ve had the banquet and the victory tour, but it still hasn’t settled in yet.
I guess maybe I wasn’t expecting to have a serious shot at winning this year, but looking back now, my wife Emma reminded me before the race that anything could happen. Boy was she right.
It didn’t exactly start out as the perfect weekend for us in Sonoma. We didn’t qualify well as a result of a car throwing dirt on the track in front of us in our session, which in turn killed our chances on our fastest laps. Starting ninth and behind Juan I definitely wasn’t optimistic.
I wasn’t sure how we’d stack up to the other contenders during the race, but when it counted the Target guys made great pit stops and the yellows fell where we needed them to. By the halfway point of the race I was in the lead and we were building a gap. Near the end we had clinched the points for leading the most laps and I was trying to do the championship points math in my head as the laps counted down. Each lap I tried to look at the scoring tower that showed the top five, and I didn’t see the other championship contenders on the board so I thought we had a chance. The only thing in our control was getting the most out of the race, winning and leading the most laps, and we did that.
When we crossed the finished line there was a pause before the team came on the radio because they were waiting to see where Montoya crossed the finish line. The field held its position on the final lap and wouldn’t you believe it we tied in points and won on a countback (3-2 on wins) against Juan. I guess Emma was right, anything is possible!
The celebration was almost unreal. The team and I were celebrating a great comeback that few of us could have predicted. We did everything in our control and the race played out exactly the way we needed it to in order to capture the fourth title for the 9 team. It was probably the craziest of the four championships so far. What an ending and what a race to be a part of especially for Target and their over-400 guests in attendance. To win there two years in a row now in front of our biggest sponsorship turnout is very special.
On the championship stage I couldn’t believe Chip went crowd surfing, then pretty much told me I had to do it next. One thing I learned…crowd surfing should never be done face first….there were a few awkward moments there for sure.
But what a weekend. We scored the team’s 100th Indy car win in tremendous style, the team’s 11th Indy car championship and my fourth, all in front on a great crowd and all our partners.
After the sport suffered such a tremendous loss the weekend before, it was a nice way to pay tribute to Justin and end the season on a high note.
In the coming weeks I’m looking forward to getting some time at home with Emma and the girls, a trip to London, and getting back in the Prototype for the Petit Le Mans in Atlanta next month.