It feels so good to be back in a race car. This has been the longest time I can remember in my career that I’ve gone without racing or even testing—from winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January until getting in a Lamborghini Super Trofeo car at Road America August.
And I didn’t get to jump behind the wheel of our No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo until this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
It was extremely difficult because when you put so much into the sport, and into your career, and your entire life has been racing, to not be able to do it is difficult enough. But then to watch other people go out there and race—and win—is even more difficult.
I understand why we weren’t able to go back racing, and I support Paul Miller’s decision on that 100 percent, but I think all of us at Paul Miller Racing, himself included, love the sport so much that it was hard not to be racing.
Before we made the decision to come back and race this past weekend, we had the option of testing for two days before we head into the endurance races or going out and doing the Michelin GT Challenge to prepare.
For our program, we figured the better option would be to go race because you learn more when you have your back against the wall, and I think everything about the VIR weekend proved we made the right decision.
We did things a little differently leading up to this race as well. Madison [Snow] came out early to my house and spent some time with my family and I before the race, before we drove to VIR, and the build up for that week was really fun.
You really felt the anticipation build for the first time since Daytona—the excitement, the nerves.
Showing back up to the track just immediately put a smile on both of our faces because of how much we missed being away.
Even though you don’t get to see people the same way because of COVID, and it was hard to not have fans there -— we miss you! —- you still got to walk into the paddock and see the trucks and the cars and hear the engines and just experience the atmosphere that we’ve missed for so long. That kind of feeling really carried us through the weekend.
We got very limited running going into Saturday’s race because of the weather on Friday, which on top of not being in the car the last six months didn’t really help! But, everyone did such a great job on race day. The pit stops were clean, the car felt great, and Madison was so impressive behind the wheel.
The great job Madison did kind of goes without saying for anyone that was watching that race. I think he showed a lot of really controlled aggression and maturity. He put on a clinic on how to wear someone down and make them make a mistake, and then once he got by he showed really good pace in the car.
I thought I was sitting out for a long time, but Madison has only been in our Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo a handful of times in the last year and a half!
For him to be able to do what he did with as little time as he’s had in the car really made his performance all the more impressive. I can only imagine the huge smile that was under his helmet at the end of that stint!
I got in the car with 61 minutes to go and for me it was all about fuel saving because we didn’t want to have to make an extra pit stop.
But, you go into a race and as a driver the one thing you really want to do is to drive as hard as you can for as long as you can — you want to be aggressive — you want to push and go to the limit every single time—but that’s not always in the cards. You have to do whatever the strategy dictates at that point in time.
At VIR it definitely was necessary for me to save fuel, but I also had to hold on to track position. It was not easy to keep Lawson [Aschenbach] and Mario [Farnbacher] behind me while saving fuel, I can tell you that! They were behind me for almost a full hour, and that was really difficult. Those are two really quick guys in really solid race cars.
So hitting a fuel number from the team while also staying ahead of those two made for an incredibly challenging stint for me. Luckily, I always enjoy a challenge like that and we were able to cross the line in third.
We had good speed, but some mistakes were made. One of those was on the fuel capacity. We were eight tenths of a liter over and that’s an oversight. If we hadn’t gone to VIR who knows when we would have discovered that?
While giving a trophy back is something I absolutely hate doing, doing it in an event that was there for us to learn is better than having to give up that result in a race where we’re fighting for the championship.
So, even though the official results show we finished at the back, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. We came back from more than six months off, we ran well, we had a great car, we were able to pass cars and hold position while saving fuel.
I think we can go into the endurance races confident about our chances.
And, even though we just had more than half a year without racing, I’m really excited to spend a few days with my family again. We travel so much in this sport — the races, the coaching, the testing, the media appearances — so it was nice to stop and take a deep breath.
I got to wake up with my kids each and every day. I could take them to school every morning and pick them up after.
It was really good to be able to take that moment and reflect on how fortunate I am to have the career that I do, but also to have such a great family and spend that time with them.
I’m very grateful that I got to do that. I put my son on the kindergarten bus for the first time recently, and it made me even more thankful that I had that time with him because now that he’s started school, it will kind of never be the same.
So, the time off wasn’t all bad. But do I want to take another six months off before getting in the car again? Absolutely not. I’m ready for Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and I am so ready to fight for the Endurance Cup title. Bring it on.