By Nico Jamin, Driver Columnist
Providing an inside look for the fans, Nico Jamin will be contributing to Motorsports Tribune selectively throughout the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. For his opening column, the 21-year-old Frenchman goes into his maiden series win with Andretti Autosport, taking to sports cars and readying for a busy month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Being a rookie and getting my first Indy Lights win in Race 1 at Barber Motorsports Park was amazing and following it up with a podium the next day means we head into the Indianapolis road course event with a lot of crucial momentum. The opening weekend at St. Pete was really rough on me and my No. 27 Andretti Autosport crew, so it was great to see the smile on everyone’s faces after a really great weekend in Barber.
I knew after St. Pete that my title hopes were not done already because with how tight the field is I expect everyone to run into trouble at some point during the season, but I knew my joker was done. I used it up in the first race and from now on the target is to stay in the top five and get some wins when I can and take as many points as possible. Points make prizes. I know we will be strong at the Indianapolis road course because we were really strong at the Chris Griffis Test over the offseason. It is even more so exciting for me because I swept the doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course two years ago when I raced in USF2000.
During the break between my Indy Lights rounds I went to race in Pirelli World Challenge at Virginia International Raceway, and we ended up winning the both races in the GTS class! Hopefully this momentum can continue throughout the rest of the season.
I don’t want to overlook my next task this weekend, but one thing I will say is how much I am looking forward to finally getting a chance to run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Dean Stoneman won both rounds at Indy in the No. 27 there last year, so I’m very confident for the next two races coming up. I’m so excited to get a chance to run the Freedom 100. I think it is the biggest race of our season in Indy Lights. We had a great test during the preseason at Homestead with our speedway configuration – I had the fastest overall lap! So I know we will have a really strong car on the 2.5-mile track. The way the finishes have been the last few times there, you know it all comes down to race craft and that last lap. It is one of my dreams to win that race so really hoping to do something special on May 26.
This Indy Lights championship promises to be a tough one with a really talented field, including my teammate, Colton Herta, who has scored two wins in the first four races so far this season. Many might think this would be rivalry inside the team, but actually it is great because we’re just going after each other. Even in testing, we are always trying to get ahead of the other, but it is a lot of fun and brings the best out of us. We just keep pushing each other at every test, every practice session, and every race. I think that is what helps make us stronger.
Going back to my win at Barber and this championship, it was nice to get my country back in Victory Lane for the first time since Alexandre Baron in 2014. French drivers have enjoyed some success in Indy Lights over the last several years, with Tristan Vautier winning the title in 2012 and Jean-Karl Vernay in 2010. Obviously in the Verizon IndyCar Series as well with Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud, but one step at a time. I am really just hoping to add my name to the list of French champions in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.
Baron actually texted me after my win and congratulated me, but really I’m just carrying it on where he left it. It’s just great. All us French drivers stick pretty close together. Simon and Seb have always been there to help me when I reach out to them and it is just amazing what we as a country have accomplished in IndyCar and the Mazda Road to Indy.