By Ryan Norman, Driver Columnist
Providing an inside look for the fans, Ryan Norman will be contributing to Motorsports Tribune selectively throughout the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. The 19-year-old Ohio native drives for Andretti Autosport and is in rookie campaign in the Mazda Road to Indy. In this installment, he returns home to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, hangs out with four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and welcomes one of the all-time classic rock bands to racing.
Mid-Ohio is one of my favorite tracks, one of the places I looked forward to on the Indy Lights schedule after joining Andretti Autosport. It was a great weekend with a lot of family and friends there. It felt great to see their excitement, and it was a comfortable position to be in at home as a driver. Normally, some might feel extra pressure or get a little nervous with your favorite supporters watching them race, but I was really excited to get on with Mid-Ohio. I knew it’d be a fun event, a race in my top-three this season along with St. Pete and the Freedom 100.
I’ve had the opportunity to compete at Mid-Ohio before, my first time being in 2015 with Formula SCCA (FE). I podiumed twice, and then won and podiumed in 2016 with Formula Atlantic at the SCCA Runoffs during the double-header weekend. I beat Graham Rahal’s track record at Mid-Ohio, which to do so at his and my home track is pretty cool. I knew he had a very successful career in Atlantic and now in IndyCar, and I feel it was good to relate to what he’s done and to beat his record on the course.
Growing up in Cleveland, I always saw NASA’s Glenn Research Center near the airport when I flew in and out, but I didn’t really know about it or what all it holds until I spent a day there with Scott Dixon and IndyCar. It’s definitely a lot more than what I expected. I’ve been to Cape Canaveral in Florida before, but I didn’t realize how much NASA in “my backyard” held. There’s so much that can be related to racing that’s involved in space – aero they work with, tires, things that easily crossover to the sport.
Going with Scott, it was really cool to join him and get a glimpse into IndyCar media events and how they work. It was a new experience for me, and knowing my dreams and goals are to race in the series, this could be something I’ll get to be a part of in the future. It’s great to watch and learn from Scott and see him work with local media I grew up with watching.
Speaking of new experiences, it’s so cool to have Journey on board for the rest of the season. It’s something different you don’t see often in racing, and I grew up listening to 80s music. Music is something I love, and my dad was also in a band. I was very into 80s music as a kid, probably more than other kids were, and Journey has always been one of my favorite bands. To have them on the car is a very surreal experience, and it being home for me, it added to my Mid-Ohio experience.
Before the race weekend, it just happened to work out the band was playing in Indy. Right place, right time! I’ve seen them three or four times in concert over the years, but this time it was more surreal and cool going to their show knowing they’re a part of the team. Before the show, I had the opportunity to meet the band and talk to the guys, hearing their excitement to be a part of the No. 48 Journey Mazda.
All the guys in the band are super laid-back and so cool, and to see their excitement with the partnership is great. It’s still so surreal and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I had a blast – we talked racing, cars and music which are three of my passions. Hopefully, we can have the guys at a race soon!