Michael DeNino Racing Utah event summary

I recently had an extraordinary opportunity. I traveled to Salt Lake City on September 13th planning to spend a week there, mountain biking and attending the Grand-Am race weekend at Miller Motorsports Park. What I did not expect was to be racing...

I recently had an extraordinary opportunity. I traveled to Salt Lake City on September 13th planning to spend a week there, mountain biking and attending the Grand-Am race weekend at Miller Motorsports Park. What I did not expect was to be racing that weekend in the Mustang Challenge.

The opportunity first arose on Wednesday night, I was at the track spending some time in the garage with John Potter, Thad Aagaard and Craig Stanton, among several others. John co-drivers the #65 Porsche with Craig Stanton in the Rolex sports car series in addition to competing in the Koni Challenge GS class, co-driving with Andy Lally. John offered to sponsor me to race in the Mustang Challenge this weekend.

I wanted more than anything to race, it had been a year since my last race and over seven months since I had last driven a car. My first though was yes, absolutely! That was quickly followed my second though which was how is this going to happen? It was 16 hours before the first practice session, which was Thursday morning. I didn't know any teams in Mustang Challenge, I had never driven a car that was remotely similar, I had never seen the track before in my life, I didn't have a Grand-Am license and I had none of my driving gear with me. Later that night we found a team that had a car available and I setup a meeting for the next morning.

My mind was in total shock, I was not ready for this at all, I had not done any of my typical preparation and I had to be in the car the next morning. What happened next was absolutely amazing. We met with the Speedworks R&D team manager Thursday morning and got more info about the team, we then left and waited to hear back from them. About an hour and a half later we heard back and were able to work out a deal. Thad Aagaard helped me do everything I needed to to participate in the weekend. We attended the drivers meeting and then quickly proceeded to locate the proper people in order to get me signed up to race. We filled out some paper work and I was handed a Grand-Am license. We then rented some equipment from the track and headed back to the team's transporter. I had missed the first session however I was prepared in time for the second session. I headed out, with a team I had just met, in a car I had never driven, on a track I had never seen, in someone else's equipment that didn't fit me. Learning a new track is not a problem, however this was not like most tracks. Miller Motorsports Park is the longest track in the United States, at nearly 4.5 miles and 23 turns. Lap times are over three minutes and you only are able to get about 7-8 laps in a session. Learning the car was also tricky because it was so different from anything I had ever driven.

The first session went well, later that day I had another session and then headed back to my hotel with Craig. I had called home that day and arranged to have my equipment shipped to the track so that I would have it the next morning. Friday went great, I had my own equipment and I was arriving at the track knowing what to expect. Everything was already in place and I was in a normal race weekend rhythm. Saturday morning I had a final practice session, qualifying and a race. I only did two flying laps in qualifying because I wanted to save my tires. I qualified 15th out of the 26 cars in the race.

When the race started all hell broke loose and the safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap as a result of a crash. After two laps behind the safety car the race went green again. From then until the end of the end of the race I swapped positions with a few people and finished 15th. It was a satisfactory result but I couldn't really ask for too much more, all things considered.

I want to thank John Potter again for sponsoring me this weekend, it meant so much to get back into a car. His support gave a huge boost to my career and helped me grow in ways that I wouldn't have even imagined. I also want to thank Thad Aagaard for all of his help, and for making the impossible happen. Thanks to Craig Stanton for helping coach me throughout the weekend. I also would like to thank all of the people who continue to support me, every single person's support is so meaningful and I truly appreciate all of it, big or small.

Right now I am in Long Beach California training with Craig. I do not know what will be next, but do have a few opportunities that I need to consider.

-credit: www.michaeldenino.com

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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Andy Lally , Craig Stanton , John Potter , Michael DeNino