San Diego, CA: After a couple weeks of decompressing from the Grand Prix of St Pete, it’s time to write my first blog of the year!
Late last year we announced that we signed a 2-year deal with Newman Wachs Racing. Being able to bring the Newman name back into motorsports is an incredible honor but with that, comes a lot of pressure to perform. We put a great deal of preparation into ensuring our success at St. Pete. The year for us started back in January where we tested for 2 days at Sebring, followed by the series test at Homestead, and then a final day of testing at The FIRM in Florida prior to the race weekend. The majority of our testing was extremely successful. Developing a new car, a new driving style, and learning all the tricks that make this car go fast were all some of the key areas that we knew had to be checked off our list.
As we arrived at St. Pete, the same emotions that came over me last year came to me again. This is a race of excitement as well as anxiety. There were quite a few differences this year compared to last though. This year I came into this race with an amazing team behind me, two rock star teammates, and a year’s worth of experience under my belt. Our first on track activity was walking the circuit during which we noticed much of the track had been repaved, giving the impression that the track would be rather smooth for us to race on. It was quite a rude awakening when we took to the track for our only practice session of the weekend.
For the most part, the track felt smooth (for a street circuit), but coming through turn 3 there was a massive bump that would lift the front of the cars off the ground. This would eventually cause a car to slam the exit wall ending our practice after only 5 or 6 green laps on track. Qualifying for races 1 and 2 were a bit tricky for us. We had to relearn a portion of the track, as officials had changed turn 3 overnight, while also managing traffic and the possibility of red flags. We ended up P4 in both qualifying sessions, which while putting us in a good starting position for the races, didn’t feel like it showed our true potential. At the start of Race 1, I jumped up to 3rd place and managed to hold that position until the last portion of the race where I was passed in turn 1 then freight trained in the following set of corners. This put us back to 7th position, but we were able to gain a spot back prior the checkered flag giving us a 6th place in our first race of the season. Race 2 was almost identical as Race 1 for us. We managed to jump up to P3 at the start of the race but quickly fell back to 5th place before losing an additional spot by the conclusion of the race. The end of the weekend saw us with two 6th place finishes, not what we were hoping for, especially considering the pace we had going into the weekend.
Looking forward now, I am doing everything I can to prepare for rounds 3 and 4 at Barber Motorsports Park. You will find us at Atlanta Motorsport Park the Wednesday prior to the event, getting our final preparations in. The team and I are going to be ready to grab our first podium, our first win, at Barber, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
All the best,