Where to begin? Last weekend’s ST win was one I will remember for a long time.
First off I have to give a huge thanks to Justin Bellinzoni, Scott Besst, and all the guys at Rennsport One. Since our debut win in the season opener at Daytona, the team has had nothing but bad luck.
An engine issue prevented us from being competitive at Sebring, we had contact at Laguna that sent us back to the paddock, and the throttle pedal went bad at the Glen. It’s been a string of rotten luck.
The team has never faltered with their level of effort and enthusiasm and their resilience showed by putting two cars on the podium last weekend.
I also have to give a huge thanks to Luis Rodriguez Jr. who has turned out to be a fantastic co-driver. Mosport is a mega-fast track with several blind corners and offers little room for error.
It’s a tough place to learn but come qualifying, Luis was on pace, and missed pole by only 0.7 of a second. He and his father Luis Sr. have also kept up a great attitude over the past three races, and they continue to bring positive energy to the track.
Luis’s race stint was uneventful. He drove great, maintaining contact with the leaders and trying hard to move forward.
Mosport can be a tough place to pass despite its fast flowing turns. One reason is that the corners alternate left and right. If you are able to get a good run out of a corner and put your nose inside a competitor, you’ll find yourself on the disadvantaged outside line heading into the next turn.
The Mario Andretti Straightaway is also a passing zone but the corner leading up to it is very slow. Two cars racing closely will “hourglass” away from each other as they negotiate it giving the advantage to the leading car.
Luis tried mightily to pass a BMW ahead of him for several laps, but I was quite pleased when he handed the car over in the top 10. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we timed the pit stop perfectly.
As I left pit lane to start my stint a full course yellow came out. Our quick pit stop put us out in front of the other cars that had pitted before the yellow and those who hadn’t made stops once the pits opened cycling us to the lead.
The only problem? I had no idea where we were. My radio wasn’t working and wouldn’t for the rest of the race.
Now came time for some quick thinking. First, check the obvious. Are my earbuds plugged into my helmet? Yes. Is my radio plug connected to the car? Yes. Is the radio on? Yes. Is it on the right channel? Yes? Can I hear the beep if I turn the radio off and back on? No. OK, I’ve established that I can’t correct anything from my end.
Now the question was could they hear me? I asked them to come to the pit wall if they could. The next lap, there they were waving wildly. Now I’m thinking to myself, were they there because they heard me ask them to or because they were trying to get my attention?
I needed a new plan. On the next lap I asked for a specific signal. “If you can hear me give me a thumbs up.” On the next lap, there was someone with a thumbs up. This was good news as now I could get some info.
In the shuffle of the running order over the course of the pit stops and yellow flag wave arounds, I lost track of where we were in the order and who the leader was. This was important because without a radio I would have to figure out for myself if I was a pass around or wave by car.
When I emerged as the first ST car in line I knew I was either the leader or the first car a lap down but I wasn’t sure. I asked the pit and they confirmed P1 with a sign board. I then needed to know if we were OK on gas or if I needed to save any. They responded with a Fuel OK on the white board.
Now all I had to do was keep everyone behind me, pay attention to the trackside flags, and go until I saw the checker.
The rest of the race was drama-filled to say the least (and if you missed it live, it airs this Sunday at noon ET on Fox Sports 1). A Mazda (which was driven by Andrew Carbonell but I had no idea at the time thanks to the radio) and I did a lot of side-by-side racing for the lead with only occasional minor contact.
It was rewarding to get to race closely with another top driver who respects racing room.
Our points position has improved, but we are still reeling from the last three races. We haven’t given up yet but we know we will need to keep the podiums coming for the second half of the season to have any hope.
On to Lime Rock!