Well.. We won Watkins Glen!!
Man it feels so good to say that. This past weekend we had our 7th race of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at the famed Watkins Glen road course in New York.
Historically this track has been very well suited to the Hondas so we were confident going into the weekend that we would have a competitive car. Right from the get go we were really happy with the car, The Compass360 guys once again nailed the setup and we were in the top 5 in both practice sessions.
I was a bit worried as we tend to burn the tires off worse than some of the lighter RWD cars, in fact I noticed on the 3rd to 4th lap on sticker tires we were already starting to slide the car more than I would’ve liked because its not about being quick on one lap its about the entire stint.
We started the qualifying session with pretty high hopes because Kyle was really fast in practice and we figured he would be inside the top 5.
The game plan was to run 1-2 quick laps and then sit the rest of the session out as to not burn off the tires since we start on the same tires you qualify on. Kyle’s first flying lap put him P1 and after the cycle of cars going thru put us back to P7ish on the board.
As he came around the 2nd time we knew he was going to be even quicker and sure enough he qualified us P3 and fastest off all Hondas. We were really happy and proud of the job Kyle did. And to get it done in 2 laps shows the making of a future champion.
The green flag flew immediately followed by a yellow for a crash on the front straight, but once we got the race underway Kyle was able to run 2nd for the majority of his stint despite having intermittent radio issues. Sometimes we could hear him sometimes we couldn’t. Fortunately he heard us when it was time to pit and we hoped it was his helmet, It wasn’t.
I got in the car during the stop and I’m used to being told when to go as to not run off with the fuel hose and I could see my crew chief pointing but I couldn’t hear anything. As the radio came to life “GO!”
I flew out of the pits but we had lost about 5-6 positions on the stop and now we realized my radio wasn’t working very well. I knew to save fuel immediately and when we went back to green it was chaos!
Owen Trinkler and I went side by side from the start finish line all the way to the top bus stop which is very hard to do and I appreciate when you race with guys like him and Valiante because they always run you clean.
We went yellow again and I immediately started saving fuel because I knew we had a long way to go. Back to green for the final time and I lost the spot to Owen because I had no idea we were green since the radio didn’t work. At this point it was Valiante, Owen, And myself running top 3 but we were being caught very quickly by the Cayman of Remo Ruscitti.
Remo was able to get by all of us with ease and then Owen stopped for fuel early so we were P3 and catching Michael Valiante’s Honda for P2. I caught Michael on the front straight and put my head down to go after Remo again. He got held up in traffic a few times so I was able to close in and I started showing my nose into corners to trick him into running wide, It worked in the carousel and I was able to get him into the laces of the boot but he got me back on the next lap into the bus stop.
By this point there was about 25 minutes left in the race. I knew because I was looking at the scoreboards that had a clock on it and knew we were either going to start saving fuel or run out and have to pit.
Valiante started fading back a bit and Remo was short shifting so as the clock ran down I started doing the same thing. With about 10 minutes to go Remo bobbled and I knew he wouldn’t make it so I backed off my pace and sure enough a few laps later Remo ran out and I took the lead.
When I came to the white flag I started getting really nervous. Every corner I expected the bobble. Every shift I waited to feel the engine run lean.
But as I came out of turn 10 I knew Id make it because its mostly down hill. I screamed my lungs out as we crossed the line first and really couldn’t believe we won it!.
I can’t thank my team Compass360 and Honda Racing/HPD enough for all they do for us. It was an amazing weekend!