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Colin Braun files his latest Sportscar365 column following COTA…

Photo: CORE autosport

Photo: CORE autosport

It feels great to leave COTA as the 2014 TUDOR PC Champion. We’ve won the team championship the last couple of years, but for Jon and I to win this driver championship together is pretty special.

It’s really nice to get that done and out of the way a race early, so we don’t have to worry about it at Road Atlanta.

We’ve had such a good year that it would be a big disappointment if we didn’t win the driver’s championship. It’s a sigh of relief. There’s a shorter to-do list, if you will, for Petit this way.

I knew if we finished first or second, no matter what anyone else did, Jon and I would lock up the championship.

Once we got settled into second after the last pit stop, we were pretty close on fuel, so we had to play it a little conservative. It would have been nice to go out there and win the race, but we didn’t want to be in a place to lock the championship up and then run out of fuel.

Knowing you have a car to win, but having to conserve fuel is pretty maddening, but that’s part of endurance racing. It keeps things exciting. We’ve won our fair share of races being smart on fuel strategy, but at the same time we had the championship in mind.

That was the main goal: to lock down the driver championship so we didn’t have to deal with it at Road Atlanta.

The weather at COTA was a big challenge for us. A lot of people were talking about the heat, but for me, being from Texas, I certainly don’t mind it. It’s something you get used to the more you’re in it. The harder part for us was the changing conditions.

We didn’t go and test at COTA, so with the limited amount of dry running, we didn’t have much time to get a handle on our setup and get dialed in. We certainly had to rely on the fact that we roll off the truck with a good starting setup and that we’re in a good ballpark window of where we need to be.

I think we only got 30 or 45 minutes between Jon and I in the three hours of practice we had. We’d have a big downpour right before practice and it’d take 30 or 40 minutes into the session for the track to dry. We had our fingers crossed that it might rain, because we had more time in the wet than the dry in practice.

We were definitely prepared for the fact that a rain storm or rain shower might pop up. It was a little bit challenging, like my previous experience at Le Mans, where you get a big shower in part of the race track, but the rest of the track is completely dry.

We had that same scenario. We had a big shower in one part of the track, but the guys on pit lane said it was completely dry there. We had to keep a close eye on the weather and be prepared to switch to rains.

This drivers’ championship is just as much about the hard work of the team: you don’t win a drivers’ championship without a great team behind you or as many championships as we have without a great group of guys behind you.

It all starts with the mindset that Jon Bennett and Morgan Brady have instilled in all the people who have worked at CORE autosport. We’re all hungry people, really motivated and work our butts off.

It’s been a long time coming for the drivers’ championship side of things. It’s neat for me to be able to help deliver that championship for Jon. He’s put a lot of work into his driving career and being a champion at this level of motorsport.

We’ve had a lot of cool firsts together; we got Jon’s first professional win at Laguna two years ago and now Jon’s first professional championship. It’s fun working with Jon and seeing him grow as a driver, it’s very rewarding.

Now we’ve got to get the team championship wrapped up and we want to win that Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. It would have been a shame to not win the driver’s championship, so that was our real focus and goal throughout these last few races. It wasn’t a bad birthday present to myself I guess!

Time flies and I can’t believe we’re talking about the final race already!

Colin Braun (@colinbraun) is a sports car racing standout and former NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series driver, driving for Meyer Shank Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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