SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
This past weekend I traveled to Sebring International Raceway, in Sebring Florida. It was a relief to climb back into a race car, not having raced since September's event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex. Although I have not been driving very much lately, I have still been very active developing my racing career. I continue to work as a team member for the Ferrari of Washington racing team in addition to doing work with BGB Motorsports on their Grand Am Koni Challenge team. Working with both of these organizations is a pleasure as I have the opportunity to garner valuable experience and increase my knowledge while working with talented professionals.
I also have a very exciting announcement to make! During this past weekend I was informed that I had been selected as the winner of a PitFit Training Driver Memorial Scholarship! PitFit is a fitness training organization located in Indianapolis, Indiana dedicated to developing and training race car drivers and crew members. I am very excited and feel privileged to have this excellent opportunity to improve my fitness while aligning with a quality organization. I would like to thank PitFit as well as all of the other people who helped me reach this achievement.
Back to racing at Sebring. Saturday was a beautiful morning and qualifying took place on a dry track under sunny skies; but all of this was about to change. Just prior to the drivers meeting for my race I noticed a pretty nasty rain storm off in the distance. I quickly prepared my gear in anticipation of rain. Sure enough, the instant our driver's meeting was over the skies opened up. In typical Florida rainstorm fashion, this downpour only lasted a few minutes before the rain subsided. The track was now soaked and huge puddles had collected all over the 3.7 mile circuit.
Although I had never raced a car in the rain before, I was excited as I enjoy driving in diverse conditions. Having some prior experience racing go-karts in the rain, I knew what had to be accomplished in order to be successful; search for grip and stay out of trouble!
As the green flag flew to start the race, visibility was horrendous heading down the front stretch approaching turn one. Tire spray from the accelerating field made it impossible to see. Passing underneath the bridge at the end of the front straight, I knew that turn one was just ahead. Fortunately, I avoided trouble, visibility improved as the field stretched out and the race settled down. The rest of the race I spent experimenting by driving different lines around the track searching for grip. Starting from the sixth position on a grid of 14 cars, I was able to improve my position by one spot, finishing the race in fifth. A satisfying finish for my first race in the rain.
Sunday was time for race two. Unlike Saturday, Sunday provided much more favorable weather and a dry track. Based on Saturday's race result, I started the second race in the Fifth position. At the start of the race there was some position swapping. I would pass a car, they would pass back, typical first lap conduct. At the end of the first lap I was in fourth position and the first four cars started to break away from the field. As the race progressed, the top three cars had pulled a small gap on me, but I was determined to catch them. A few laps later I closed the gap and was in position to fight for the lead.
Unfortunately, when entering the always dangerous hairpin turn at Sebring, I got a little too excited and broke very late for the turn. Locking wheels in the brake zone I did everything I could to slow for the corner. I turned in and touched wheels with the third place car. Even though no damage had occurred to either car, and both my competitor and I were able to continue as if nothing happened, the rules for the Skip Barber Regional racing series require that you stop in pit lane for a penalty/safety check if you make contact with another car. I made my penalty stop and re-entered the track in 12th position, where I would finish the race.
Obviously I was disappointed because I knew that I had a good shot at winning the race, or at the very least, having a podium finish. Part of winning is avoiding car contact, at least in this series. I walked away very happy with my performance; I knew where on the circuit I had improved, and that I could run at the front in a very competitive group of drivers. I look forward to what the future has to offer. Best wishes to all for a joyful holiday season.