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MONK: A New Spring Tide

Gradient Racing Acura driver Sheena Monk files her latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Gradient Racing

The surf has been rough for me in the last handful of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races.

A suspension issue at the penultimate Indy Battle on the Bricks in September 2023, a gearbox failure at the season finale in Petit Le Mans, an electrical fault at the flagship Rolex 24 at Daytona to start this year, and the loss of the chassis in a smash at Sebring.

I’ve felt mentally underwater, rolling around and caught in the washing machine of a breaking wave.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is always packed with LA metropolitan glamor and thrill but still maintains an authentic California vibe with the cool breeze rustling through the palm trees down Shoreline Drive.

The impressive weekend fan attendance also brings a surge of energy that is especially felt here because of the proximity of the grandstands to the actual circuit.

There is something inexplicably special about the street race. Is it the nostalgia of the nearly half-century-old run event? Maybe it’s the celebration of an activity that would otherwise be forbidden any other time within a city.

Or perhaps it’s the challenge placed on drivers to be at their absolute limit with razor-thin margins of error.

The chilly, early morning fog lifted and made way for the California sunshine just before the buildup to the green flag last Saturday. We were starting 17th, the final car on the grid, due to a last-minute engine change that prevented us from qualifying the day prior, seemingly lengthening our almost laughable string of misfortune.

And then everything changed during a 100-minute sprint.

Stevan [McAleer] and I were methodical in our advances, benefited from the tremoring mistakes and infractions of our competitors, and continued charging after the Gradient Racing crew delivered on our only JG Wentworth NSX GT3 Evo22 pitstop.

We’ve broken out of the pounding waters at Long Beach. Long-period waves move through the ocean and changing alignments create new tides. We’re barreling on because the perfect set is just ahead.

Sheena Monk is a IMSA race-winner, driving alongside Katherine Legge in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura GTD team Gradient Racing.

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