We were looking forward to going to Road America. It’s been a challenging place for us the last couple years. We’ve always had a good pace there, but Jon and I have yet to get a win, so we were ready for another shot at it.
We worked really hard from the time we unloaded. We were fighting some setup stuff and some mechanical issues throughout the weekend and it was very challenging from top to bottom. CORE is not accustomed to that sort of weekend.
Having a fast race car off the truck is generally the norm for our group, but when you race in a professional series with strong competition, it isn’t always easy!
With Road America being in a place like Wisconsin, the track changes every time we race here.
The winters are pretty harsh and it changes the surface and the bumps a little bit. It was unfortunate to see a track as cool as Road America torn up a bit in the corners. It was in Turns Five, Six and Eight, right where we put down our right-side tires.
We noticed it right away during the track walk. They did a good job trying to patch it up, but that only goes so far and it was a little surprising that we started practice on it that way.
Also, we have new Continental Tires this year that are different from what we had last year and the year before that we were on Michelin tires. It’s always interesting to see how the tire works at different racetracks. We’d been running on Continental’s ‘oval’ tire for the last couple rounds of the championship and now we’re back on the tire we used at Sebring and Laguna.
Qualifying was tough. We decided right after the last practice that we wanted to make some pretty big adjustments and swap some parts out, but we didn’t have a lot of time between practice and qualifying to get it done.
The guys did a good job making the changes quickly and we only missed the first third of qualifying. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but with the amount of changes we wanted, it was a risk we knew we had to take.
I thought we ended up with a pretty good setup and certainly thought we were capable of a podium finish, but it wasn’t meant to be. Jon got turned around by a Viper early in the race.
I think the caution flag came out, Jon backed off, the Viper didn’t know that the caution was out and the Viper ran into him and spun him out.
Once I got in the car everything seemed pretty good. We were up to fourth leaving the pits thanks to the good pit work from the guys and good driving by Jon. I got around a couple guys early on and was up to second.
Then, (Jack) Hawksworth got by me and I was cruising, waiting to get to the next pit stop, and I basically got spun around by another driver going into Turn 12.
We had just passed a GT car through the section after the Kink and we were on the right side of the race track. It’s a tough place, with all the bends, to get back on line, so I decided I was going to stay on the inside instead of veer over late in the brake zone.
I put the brakes on in the normal spot and felt heavy contact from behind and got spun around. I’m not sure what happened. I think he just missed his brake marker. That’s how racing goes sometimes.
We’ve been fortunate to not get caught in mistakes like that this year, but it’s like playing the lottery; eventually it’s going to happen.
We had sustained some pretty big damage. The safety crew told me they wanted to put me on a flat bed and take it back. I wasn’t having any of that! I didn’t want it stuck up on a flat bed and have them tell me ‘we’ll get it back there as soon as we can.’ I wanted to make sure it stayed in my hands and that we got it to the pits and fixed on our terms.
We knew we needed to make minimum drive time to make points, so that was a big concern. The guys did a tremendous job getting it fixed and back on track.
It’s a testament to the work that they do preparing spares and having them ready to go. I think we only lost eight laps fixing the car, which is impressive considering all the work that had to be done.
When I rejoined the race, I approached it from a point of extreme caution. I got out in the back of the queue with a bunch of other cars that had also sustained damage. I just settled in and drove around to make minimum time and make sure we didn’t get caught up in someone else’s accident or push too hard and have something break.
I just wanted to get the finish, get the minimum drive time, bank the points and look ahead to the next race.
So we look ahead to VIR. It’s going to be interesting with the “Kansas format,” that combines us with the IMSA Lites cars.
I’m looking forward to seeing the changes they’ve made at VIR and the new surface. It’ll hopefully be the same VIR but a little re-vamped.