You can train all you want to get ready to race. You can do a lot of cardio on a bike, you can work on reaction times, spend time on a simulator, you can eat right, you can hydrate, you can do any number of things to prepare yourself for the physical challenge of driving a race car.
What’s hard to train for, however, is working through pain.
As many know, I’ve spent a lot of time at Creighton Mixed Martial Arts in Suwanee, Georgia, where I train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
There’s a lot of benefits that come from it: strengthening my core, working on flexibility, the stamina required to go through a bout while maintaining focus, as well as the real life applications in self defense for myself and my loved ones.
For those that are competitive in any way, one of the main things that you quietly gain is working through pain. When someone puts you in a joint lock or a chokehold, part of the training with BJJ is thinking you’re way through how to get out of it.
Each offensive action against you has a defensive action for an answer. If your training partner or opponent gets a step ahead of you, or your defense was not as precise as it could have been, you are often put into a very uncomfortable situation.
The great part of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that you can “tap out” at any time and concede the match or a portion of the training session to your opponent. I am a bit stubborn in these situations and when I roll/spar with training partners that are better than I am, I often find myself in very uncomfortable situations for a very long time.
That sort of training paid big this weekend.
We came into the weekend feeling pretty good after a busy couple weeks. The team had a test at Indy 12 days ago, and we learned quite a bit about what we needed and made some big strides after a tough race in Detroit. One day later, I was in Road America for my first Nationwide race in five years where we were up to third before finishing seventh!
It was great to finally get back behind the wheel of a stock car, especially when you have a good day like that. We actually broke the track bar on the green, white, checker restart, and may have finished as high as third if that hadn’t happened, it was wild.
It is an absolute joy to drive sportscars for a living, but I have to admit there’s something very special about racing a stock car. In sportscars you have to be very, very delicate with the car as even the slightest contact can pop a radiator or knock your tow out of alignment. In a stock car, you usually have a much stronger machine which means you can really race someone hard.
Arriving at Watkins Glen, I was excited about the weekend. Growing up four hours away in Long Island, this is my home race track and where I did a ton of driving growing up.
In practice, our Magnus Racing Porsche was excellent. We managed to work past a lot of the problems we had at Detroit, and we were near the top of the time sheets in every session. My teammate, John Potter, is always really good here and we also added Sebastian Asch since it was a six-hour race.
I’ve never worked with Sebastian before, but I have to give him a lot of credit. He’s very good, very professional, and just an all around good dude.
Saturday’s race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was what would make the TUDOR race very interesting. Stevenson Motorsports has done a great job of preparing my Camaro Z/28, and both cars had a really good chance this weekend.
As I ran my stint on Saturday, John Edwards and I made contact into the Esses just as we had gone yellow, and as soon as that happened I instantly felt something different in the pedals. Apparently we’d cracked a header and that sent a lot of the heat in our massive V8 straight into the pedal box, and it felt like my foot was on fire.
The problem was there was still over 90 minutes to go and I knew immediately that this was going to be a hard day. These were some of the longest laps of my life, and it felt like I was driving for eight hours.
My right foot was planted on this searing piece of hot metal for lap after lap, and when the checkered flag fell I was immediately sent to the medical center to treat my feet. I had been burned pretty badly and I had massive blisters to show for it.
These are the moments when all of that training paid off.
Just when I was thinking I could take an early night and go to bed, one of the Magnus guys came into the medical center and asked “so… are you still going to qualify?”
CRAP!! The day wasn’t over yet.
We bandaged my foot up and I was back in the car an hour later. We qualified fifth.
I spent the night trying to sleep as well as I could, taking care of my foot, and then it was race day!
Our race was actually pretty quiet. John drove well, the team was awesome with all of our stops, Sebastian did all we asked, and then it was my turn.
By the time I got in the car we were up to fifth, but a lap down to the No. 94 BMW and No. 555 Ferrari. Without a yellow to get our lap back, we were basically in a fight for third and the guys did a great job getting us there in the pits.
Once the adrenaline kicked in, to be honest, my foot was fine. I felt it as soon as I got out, but knowing we had a chance at a podium, I had all the motivation I needed to keep me focused and that overcame any injury.
We’re second now in the points for the TUDOR Championship and the Tequila Patrón Endurance Cup, but realistically the Patron Cup is probably out of reach.
We’re definitely in the hunt for the TUDOR Championship, however, and we’re off to Mosport next to stay in the hunt.
This is a great team and a great car, let’s keep the momentum going.