There’s no doubt Sebring was an amazing week for me and the CORE autosport team. Right from the start, when we first went out for practice and all the GRAND-AM cars were there too, it was cool to see what I’d never thought would happen three or four years ago.
You had a group of ALMS guys that were very used to driving at Sebring, but then you had another group that were new to Sebring that were still figuring out the small stuff, like where the faster or slower cars pass and how the track will change. I enjoyed talking to those guys, the GRAND-AM guys that didn’t have much experience at Sebring before.
I actually got to Sebring a bit sooner than the rest of the team. I was doing a little bit of driver coaching in the IMSA Lites category for Tony Bullock. It was his first time in a Lites car at Sebring.
He was on his way to a top-five finish on the first day before a gearbox problem. On the second day he was running in the top three for a lot of the race and ended up finishing fourth. For his first time in a Lites race at Sebring I thought he did pretty good!
For the CORE autosport PC guys, we came into Sebring as the Daytona winners and championship leaders and that certainly will put pressure on a team, but we’ve been the guys with the bullseye on our back for the last three years with the success we’ve had in the PC category.
Everybody is trying to beat us. The pressure is something we’re used to and something we use to constantly push ourselves to go faster and improve.
It was a little disappointing to not be on the PC pole. They don’t hand those things out in PC though, you definitely have to earn them. Sebring is a tough place, especially when it comes to qualifying, because the track changes so much over the course of the week.
The race track that we had for qualifying, which was right after the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race, we hadn’t seen all week and we didn’t see it beyond qualifying. It was a roll of the dice setup wise trying to guess what the track was going to be like.
James Gue did a great job starting the car and Jon Bennett kept us in a strong position when it seemed like all the other PC cars were getting caught up in crashes.
The CORE guys do really well on pit road. They’re always working on pit stops in the shop, looking at the tiny details and how they can get better. Everyone talks about how tight the rules are in the PC class and because the rules are so tight it comes down to the tiny details that separate the teams.
It was fun having to work so hard to stay ahead of Junqueira at the end. We had a unique situation in the PC class by that point because we had about a six or seven-lap lead over third place.
Once we got inside six or seven laps it was a big shootout because if either of us crashed, we’d at least finish second. My team told me that Bruno had asked his team over the radio to let him know when there was seven laps to go because he was going to go all out since at worst he would finish second.
I had to drive as hard as I could for the last 20 minutes of that race which really makes us feel like we earned it.
After winning Sebring Jon Bennett and I took part in Pat Long’s pro-am charity go-kart race in Tampa to benefit All Children’s Hospital. I had Pat’s wife Lauren and my wife Melissa on my team. Pat and Jon raced too, so did Jan Heylen, Sebastian Bourdais, Tristan Vautier, Bryan Sellers and lot of other pros.
The rules were the pros could only drive between 20 – 24 laps and had to start and finish the race. You could buy laps back, but you could only buy them back once during the race. I did one lap to start, stopped, traded drivers and had the other teammates go, then I jumped in at the end and did the last 23 laps.
Right when I jumped in, we bought all our laps back. At that point we were back on the lead lap when all the other teams still had to stop to put their pros in. That leap-frogged us to second and that’s where we finished. It was a good strategy that Melissa and Lauren came up with. They even started calling themselves the “AMs.”
I’ve got a couple things going on before Laguna in May. I’ve got some testing things going on and some driver coaching. I do have a big break though and I haven’t been on vacation in awhile, so maybe I’ll go on vacation!