It was the weirdest Sunday I’ve ever lived.
But also one of the most satisfying – to win my first IndyCar iRacing Series race was a bloody thrill. I know it’s clearly not the real thing – but this was a cool box to tick.
Let me take you through my day.
The alarm went off at 2.50 am – I wanted to give myself the best chance to be ready to roll for qualifying and the race.
A strong coffee, some toast, and juice followed. A few stretches to wake up and I was set to jet.
Qualifying was OK but I was a touch disappointed with eighth fastest. It would make the early going tough from the fourth row.
The gap before the race was a challenge. I was trying my best not to fall asleep – can you imagine if I missed the start of the race because I nodded off!?!?
I was super confident we could do a good job. I knew we were way better off than the week before at Watkins Glen.
We recorded a Balls and Bumpers podcast on Friday and I told my mates Jack Riewoldt and Tim Hodges how confident I was – in fact, I boldly told them I would win!
We had put the hard work in, we had a good strategy, and I have been working so hard on my simulator to be my best.
As most of you who know me would know, I’m a perfectionist and want to be the best at everything I do. And with a heap of time on my hands of late (don’t we all?) I had spent so much time being as sharp as I could be when we went racing at Barber.
It was so cool for NBC to be carrying the race live on their sports channel. It was cool for my good mate Leigh Diffey to be calling it. And even though it was early, it was cool the minutes before the race went green. I know it’s not the real thing but man, the nerves were a lot similar pre-race.
Even looking at the starting grid – to see the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens – how awesome! I’m a massive NASCAR fan, so to be racing against Jimmie, in particular, was surreal. He even followed me on Twitter on Sunday morning which was a thrill!
Which leads me to the race.
We were always planning to stop twice – I have to thank Penske’s lead engineer Jonathan Diuguid who set me up brilliantly.
Last week at Watkins Glen I tried to organise the whole race myself – it was too much to remember fuel numbers while I was out there racing. This allowed me just to focus on steering the thing as fast as I could.
We pitted a lap before the competition caution which got us into clear air, and more importantly away from lapped traffic. Then it was down to me – to smash out the best possible lap times, lap after lap after lap.
On Lap 32 we pitted a second time, which gave us fresh rubber to race down Scott Speed. Just like real racing, fresh rubber is so crucial. And it gives you a fighting chance to pass.
We barged past Scott to grab the lead with six laps to go – then it was a decent duel with my Penske teammate Will Power to the finish. I always thought Will wouldn’t do anything silly from behind – even though it’s only virtual racing, there’s no way he would have wanted to take us both out so close to the finish.
On the last corner I locked a brake which gave me a scare, but it was OK… and just before 6 am Brisbane time, I took the chequered flag for the win.
I was that pumped sitting in my simulator in Brisbane, winning a race in Alabama on the other side of the earth. I celebrated with another glass of juice, did a couple of media commitments, and then went back to bed, still buzzing.
For those wondering, the rest of my day included a movie on the couch, a walk with Karly & the dog, and a gripping final episode of MAFS!
We now have the series lead after two events with four still to come, the next at Michigan next week – which will be my first crack at an oval.
That will make for some sort of Easter Sunday!
Stay safe everyone.