DENINO SHOWS STRONG PERFORMANCE IN NATIONAL SERIES DEBUT The 2008 Skip Barber National Series kicked off March 11-14 at Sebring International Raceway as part of the 56th annual Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the largest and most ...
DENINO SHOWS STRONG PERFORMANCE IN NATIONAL SERIES DEBUT
The 2008 Skip Barber National Series kicked off March 11-14 at Sebring International Raceway as part of the 56th annual Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the largest and most prestigious endurance races in North America. The entire week was filled with six different racing series, with cars on track, every day from sunrise to sunset.
The Skip Barber National Series was one of several racing series running last week as a support race for the main event, the Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring. It was an amazing experience to be involved in such a thrilling atmosphere. I had raced several times with Skip Barber last year in their regional series; however, this was my first time racing in their National Series. The National Series has a much more intense level of competition and features a far more experienced group of drivers as well as a very healthy year end championship purse. This weekend was also my first experience driving a formula car on slick tires, which offer much improved performance over the standard street tires that I have driven on in the past.
I immediately began to enjoy the improved acceleration and cornering forces provided by the new tires. The enhanced grip and reduced weight of the tire shortened the time it took to lap Sebring's 3.7 mile circuit by about six seconds on average. I was very pleased with my first practice day, having the fourth fastest time in the first session, and the fastest time in the second session. Drivers had an additional practice session on Wednesday which was on a semi wet track. It provided information about wet weather conditions which would prove to be valuable later in the week.
Qualifying for race one on Thursday morning started at eight o'clock. And for anyone who is wondering if it is even light out at 8:00AM this time of year, the answer is yes, but barely. I had attempted to work out a plan with other drivers in order to accomplish a faster qualifying time by drafting. The key word here is attempted. With 28 cars on the track and everyone trying to play out their perfect strategy it wound up being quite a big mess. With time was running out, I still hadn't put down a good flying lap. With two laps left in qualifying I did what I could which was good enough for eighth place on the starting grid of 28 cars, a satisfactory performance.
The start of race one is where things started to get interesting. I don't know if everyone spent a little too much time out in the Florida sun, or if they drank too many energy drinks before the race, but when the green flag flew for the start of race one, everything got a little crazy. We went six wide into turn one which was well expected; everyone was well mannered however, so this was not a problem. Throughout the race though there were dive bomb passes being made in the hairpin, wheel to wheel contact, bumping down the straights, you name it and it had probably happened in the short four laps that we got in under green flag conditions. The reality of the race was that if you were not passing someone you were probably being passed. You could move back five positions on one lap, and gain those five positions back on the next lap. It was great racing! On lap five a full course caution came out due to a crash and we completed the race behind the pace car due to time constraints. I finished in seventh place, but had probably changed positions ten times during the race; it was an exciting one for sure. I was happy with my seventh place finish and knew that I would build on that for the race the next day.
On Friday morning it was the same drill, qualify at 8:00AM. This time I had a slightly different strategy which turned out to work quite well. I qualified fourth for race two which would take place at 6:00PM that evening. At the time the race started, track conditions had dramatically changed due to an hour long down pour immediately before the race. Wet weather tires were installed on all cars and the green flag dropped with the cars in a single file start due to safety concerns.
Similar to race one, excitement and action on the track was at an elevated level. I quickly moved up to second place on lap two. I was then passed by several cars but regained a couple of positions over the next few laps. I would finish the race in fourth place, again under full course caution conditions due to a crash in turn 17. It was another great result and an improvement from the day prior. This time however, I could taste a podium finish, but was satisfied with my result none the less.
It was a great weekend and a good start to the season. I walked away from the event fifth place in the championship points standings. My thanks to all of the Skip Barber mechanics for putting in those long hours maintaining the cars, to all of the Skip Barber instructors and staff for their guidance and knowledge, and to all of my supporters for your continued help.