Hello Everybody, So the first race weekend has come and gone, and it had as many ups and downs as was expected from Virginia International Raceway.
The weekend started off great on Thursday testing. Although there was no official timing just about every driver had about five additional stop watches in his pit box to time himself and all of his competitors, along with everyone going up and down pit lane asking for each other's lap times. Unofficially we were first in the morning, and second in the afternoon, which was definitely a great way for my new team and I to start off.
On Friday official practice began and it did not go as smoothly as Thursday's did. I had a minor crash in oak tree in the middle of the session. At first I thought it was my mistake and I dropped the left side wheels while trying to turn in for oak tree. When I got back to the trailer I was informed of reports of oil on the track and that about five cars went off in the same corner just before me, and I saw another two go off the same lap after I did. We downloaded the in-car camera and it saved me, and showed I had not made a mistake. So my in-car camera saved me this time, but it's a long season and I am sure it will go against me later on in the year.
For race one, we qualified seventh, which was a bit disappointing. It was very difficult to get a clear lap. My last lap was my only clear lap and I didn't get the most I could out of the car, but I was ready to try and move forward for the race. I was on the inside lane and it did not go anywhere when the green flag dropped which had me fall back to eleventh on lap one. I kept calm and just started to make my way back to the front, passing one car at a time. I had made my way up to sixth with just about four laps to go and was starting to catch Remy Audette for fifth. We had a good battle and I had a good run on him on the back straight but had to back off due to there being a stationary yellow. Still I was pretty happy to come back to finish sixth.
On Sunday I was able to get some more clear laps in to qualify fourth on the grid. When the grid formed for the green flag I felt two taps from behind. I had to hit the brake pedal to make sure I did not run into Remy Audette. Just as I hit the brake pedal to slow down and lose my momentum, the green flag came out. So I fell from fourth to tenth on the first lap. Just like on Saturday I kept calm and started to pick cars off one by one. At the halfway point I made my way up to sixth and could see the lead pack of five cars. I put my head down and gave it everything I had to catch them, and doing that, I set the two fastest laps of the race and was catching the lead pack by about .5-1.00 a lap. With three laps to go I had caught Carbone for fifth place, but I made a mental error coming out of oak tree running wide and causing me to spin. When I used to play baseball, my coaches always told me "catch the ball and then look at your target to throw to." On Sunday I was already thinking about passing before I had officially caught Victor and was side-by-side with him and spun the car. It was completely my fault and I was definitely disappointed with my mistake. I had a good chance there to get my best result so far in this series and my first top five. But I learned a lot this past weekend and was able to come home with two top 10s and, for the first time in my career, set the fastest lap of the race in this series, which was great.
I am really excited to go to Road Atlanta in a few weeks. It's one of the great road courses here in North America and was not on the schedule last year, so it will be my first time there. I am not too worried about going to a track I haven't been to before. Last year every single track was new to me and I was able to pick them up pretty quickly. Based upon how VIR went, I think if we can have some things go our way and not against us we will have a good chance of being on the podium.
It has been great to work with Paul Rieffle and the entire R-Sport team. The team works so hard, and has a great attitude with everything. My mechanics Rob and Don did a great job prepping the cars and we did not have any mechanical glitches at all during the first event which says a lot with all the track time there was. The cars simply ran like tops. My teammate Keith and I are working well with our engineer and have very similar driving styles which I think will pay off as the season progresses.
See you at Atlanta!