Tim Paul: VIR
After one weekend, SMR has as many points as we had ALL OF LAST SEASON. You'd think I'd be happy. Such is the driver's curse. As soon as a milestone is cleared, there is no time to contemplate. To intertwine fingers behind head and proclaim, “Job well done!” No, it is simply on to the next one. For me, it is inventing a time machine to go back to Saturday's rain race. We were one of three cars to start on rains, with my good friend and tent-brother Ardie Greenamyer and Dave Weitzenhof.
The first turn was, honestly from where I was, awesome. Cars everywhere, backwards, sideways, wings and wheels jumping into the air. It was kind of like that scene from the Stallone flick “Driven,” only, thankfully no cars exploded. Ardie gave me a lot of room on the inside on an aggressive start and he and I both managed to weasel our way through the carnage unscathed. The pace car picked us up and I had miraculously moved up 11 positions in one turn of green flag racing.
The rain had not yet begun to fall, but a voice came over the radio and told me “Rain will be here the next time you hit the front stretch.” Another slow circulation over and around the undulating surface at VIR, and back to the front stretch, and sure enough, as I crossed the start/finish big fat drops began to caress my visor. I could not have been happier. Two more pace laps and we were set to go green. The Allegra car in front of me spun the rear tires badly and I was in third by turn 4. I tell myself to relax, there are a LOT of laps left and lope around for two more easy laps in what has become a monsoon. I know the guys in front of me are on slicks. Suddenly... WHITE FLAG!?! First and second are ahead of me, on slicks, and all over the place. I decide I will make my move to second in turn 4 and wrap up the race on the back stretch. Too bad I never made it.
Looped the car getting on the throttle too hard exiting turn 1, did a perfect 360 and couldn't get to the clutch quickly enough and stalled it. She refused to fire so I steered her into the mud and watched my first F2000 Championship Series win walk out the door. I had a lot of time to sit and think about what I just did, there in the mud with the rain pouring down. It seemed to fit the mood, right at that moment. I have never been more disappointed in myself as a driver in my entire time driving race cars. Fortunately, same as there is no time to revel in victory, nor is there time to revel in failure. Save a few hours staring at the hotel room ceiling that evening, Sunday was a new day, and I had more motivation that I've ever had to show up and be solid.
Sunday was a fairly routine affair, except I bested my previous best qualifying and race efforts, starting and finishing 9th. My first F2000 top 10, and I'll take that. We didn't tear up anything, I kept the car on the asphalt (save the completely justified glide to a stop on the shoulder of turn 1 last lap of race 1) and it was my first weekend working with Glenn Philips and GTP, under Ardie Greenamyer's tent and with Tom Fatur. My mechanical genius Michael Witson has stuck with me as well, making sure I am confident in the car. All were excellent, and more than happy to answer questions, or give me great advice all weekend. What more can a new-ish driver ask for, really, than more experienced guys to help them unravel the mysteries of a track? I think that we have taken the first step to really proving to the community that we deserve to be here, and will be making progress towards the front of the pack this year.
It was fantastic to see everyone after the very deep North East hibernation we had this winter. I am already lapping Road Atlanta in Iracing, looking forward to the next roller coaster weekend that racing always turns out to be. I am happy we made through the weekend as a community with nobody injured (I was a bit worried about the rookie Kyle Connery after seeing where he was sitting against the tire wall, in the uphill esses and the ambulance's arrival, glad you're OK dude.) All in all, successful first race weekend. See you all in Road Atlanta.