It has been a very busy set of months over here at Dakota Dickerson Racing! First and foremost I would like to acknowledge those who have gotten us to where we are this year. Mazda Motorsports, Jeremy Shaw and the Team USA Scholarship, Cooper Tires, Skip Barber Racing School, Molecule Sports, and Crow Enterprizes have been crucial to our success this year. If it weren’t for the opportunities given to us by the Team USA Scholarship and Mazda Motorsports I wouldn’t have much to write about today.
We started off the season with high-hopes, excited to race some great drivers from across the globe. Our first stop was Barber Motorsports Park for the official series test. It was a great learning experience and good way to get our feet wet before our first official race (which was just 3 days later). We could already tell the competition would be fierce, but that didn’t change our program. The tight streets of St. Petersburg were rough as we saw our best and worst result come out of the weekend. Engine issues throughout the weekend and contact in the last race put us a step back.
There was then a 6 week period between St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park, the venue for Rounds 3&4, so what better to do than to work with a Mazda dealer! I went up to Huntington Beach Mazda for a cars and coffee event that brought out some of Southern California’s finest Mazda enthusiasts. The next stop was then over to AutoBahn Country Club for two private test days with the team. We made a lot of improvements and felt more comfortable with the car. Our last stop before heading out to Birmingham, AL was to the Long Beach Grand Prix. It was an action packed event both on and off track. That Thursday I was honored to join several of my fellow Team USA Scholarship recipients such as INDYCAR drivers Spencer Pigot, Josef Newgarden, and J.R. Hildebrand, as well as Mazda Prototype drivers Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez for the George Follmer tribute dinner put together by the RRDC (Road Racing Drivers Club), SafeisFast Race Driver Development, and the Team USA Scholarship. There were a number of incredible racing icons that attended the event and I will never forget all of the great stories and conversations I heard. The on track part of the weekend was great with the INDYCAR race running the entirety of the race under green while still have great battles. On the sports car side of racing, Mazda got its then best finish of 4th (now 3rd) of the year! What made it even better was that I was able to hang out with the team before and after the race in their trailer.
Arriving at Barber Motorsports Park, I was excited to just get on track. Because of the series test earlier in the year, I felt very comfortable with the car right out of the gate. We showed some progress, especially in the wet were we were within the Top 5 in practice, but just couldn’t seem to get it right in the dry, along with some wheel to wheel contact with another driver that sent us off track. Nevertheless, we were making strides and had a good idea as to what needed to be done in order to move forward. I also had the opportunity to take some special guests for a ride around the undulating circuit in a Mazda 3. I want to say I gave the Serra Mazda of Birmingham guys a good scare (see picture)… Another highlight of the weekend was working with the Road to Indy TV guys on putting together a short clip about me. We went out to go Trap Shooting and sat down to chat more about my personal life!
There wasn’t much time between our race at Barber Motorsports Park and Indianapolis GP but I did manage to fit in a Spec Miata race where we won both days and set a new track record. It felt great to get back in our Mazda sports car (except for the no down force part… I kind of like down force now).
Indy GP, arguably one of the most historic tracks on the schedule for the Cooper Tires USF200 Championship powered by Mazda. We arrived expecting rain in every session, and it stayed nice and sunny for all of the fans during the entirety of the weekend. A bit of a bobble in qualifying caused us to start in 13th position for the first race. We made it all the way up to position 8 before sliding back to 11th crossing the stripe. Our second race was filled with misfortune as a car in front of us spun, causing us to break the front nose (we had nowhere to go), then a car behind us hit us (he had nowhere to go), breaking our diffuser. All in all we were a lap down and I found myself in 20th with a broken finger which doesn’t sound fun at all, but I must say that trying to drive a car with a bent front end and no rear diffuser at 100+ mph mid corner is very exciting.
Again, there was not much time before our next race which just so happened to be my first oval race! Luckily I got a day of testing in at LaCrosse speedway before the race. Our test got delayed unfortunately as a badger that was quite fearless would not get off the track. It seems like more and more animals are starting to interfere with races. Nevertheless, we still got in some good track time and were directly off to Lucas Oil Raceway for Round 7.
We were fairly fast during practice but track conditions severely changed for qualifying which was the following day. After a near brush of the wall in qualifying we would start dead last for the race. We managed to get up to p11 on the start and worked our way up to p9 as we crossed the start/finish line. It was a great learning experience and we continued our improvement as we reached our 2nd top 10 finish of the year. I turned into a spectator that Saturday and Sunday for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as well as the unveiling of the new USF17 car (if you haven’t seen it, be sure to look on the USF2000 website). The Indianapolis 500 was one of the best races I’ve watched in a while and ultimately came down to great strategy and fuel mileage. The atmosphere was amazing with 400,000 race fans gathering for racings greatest spectacle.
We are now well into the month of June and a lot has gone on so far (with lots more to come). We recently partnered with a non-profit organization called Shelter to Soldier. Their organization rescues dogs from animal shelters and pairs them with post 9/11 veterans who battle post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is great to be a part of this organization so please be sure to watch out for our events later in the year. June 8-9 was also the series test at Mid-Ohio. The Mazda Road to Indy does a great job of getting us as much track time as possible. We had a total of 10 sessions and 6 hours of track time. Our best result came on the 2nd day where we finished practice 6 in position 3. We also finished our last session of the day inside the top 10 even after experiencing engine issues. To top off the month of June, I recently took part in the Danny Thomas St. Jude celebrity golf invitational in Detroit, MI. The event paired professional baseball, hockey, and football players, and news hosts with local supporters. All in all, we raised over $150,000, all of which went to support the children of St. Jude! I am now writing this from the airport and am on my way to Road America for Rounds 8 and 9. I am very much looking forward to competing on this iconic track along with running in front of the now over 100,000 fans that will be in attendance.
Thank you to Mazda, Cooper Tires, Team USA Scholarship, and all our other supporters for allowing us to compete in such a great series!