All I can say is, “Wow, I’m glad that’s over.”
The past two weeks since Laguna have been the most stressful days and nights of my life. I usually handle pressure and everything OK, but the constant thought of repeating what happened in 2011 (losing the GT championship by 2 points in the last race) was always on my mind.
I tried to keep busy during the days with training and activities, but every time I went to bed and just had my thoughts, it would take about an hour each night to fall asleep.
Once we were at the track, I was happy. I just wanted to get in the car and get the weekend started. We knew all we had to do was race the guys that were close to us in the championship.
If the 01 car won, we had to finish 4th. If the 99 car won, we had to finish 7th, and if the 5 car won, we had to finish 9th.
We knew we had a good car in practice and qualifying. Unfortunately a few black flags came out and traffic came into play which had us starting the race in 5th.
Max settled into a good rhythm in the top-three, which was all we needed at that point. He was taking minimal risks in traffic and just keeping the car clean. All of the races that we’ve won this year have come down to our guys making the right calls on strategy, and the then the guys going over the wall executing the stops.
So basically, I was hoping they’d do it again, and make my life a lot easier!
I think we were the last DP to pit for the first stop, where I got in. With the yellow that came out early in the race, we knew it would be tight, but we could do the race on just one more stop if we saved fuel.
So once I got in, we were straight into fuel conservation mode. Even with saving fuel, we were pretty quick, able to catch and pass the 42 car and reel in the 6 car from about 10 seconds back. We stretched this tank as long as possible, and then a yellow came out, which we really didn’t want to see. But we knew if we were able to beat everyone out and maintain our track position, we’d be in good shape to the end.
The guys did what they’ve done all year, execute! A perfect pit stop got us out front and in the lead for the final 50 minutes of the race. All I had to do was try and maintain the position and not take any risks, because we didn’t need to win, we just needed to stay within points contention.
We went green and it was the first time we were in ‘go mode’, not saving fuel or anything. Just like Laguna, the car was mega. We were able to gap the field by about 15 seconds in 30 minutes.
My only thoughts at that point were, ‘Please don’t let there be a yellow, don’t hit any GT cars, don’t hit the curbs, watch out for debris.’ Basically anything that could go wrong was going through my head. And then it happened, another yellow with about 10 minutes to go.
It was the worst case scenario… Going green with 3 minutes to go, last restart of the year, last race of the year, last GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race in history, so everyone is going to want to win it!
I knew all I had to do was not make a mistake and the win and championship would be ours. It went green and we were able to pull a small gap and just bring it home.
I had the biggest ‘chills’ of my life coming down the downhill into the last corner on the final lap thinking that we were just about to win this championship.
All the hard work that the guys put in over the year was finally paying off. A few victory donuts and then off to see the guys in victory lane!
There’s no better feeling in the world then celebrating something like that with your family and your team. Being on a team like this is like being in a family. I feel like I’m surrounded by brothers when I’m at the track. We win together and we lose together, and this time, we won.
The biggest thing for me was being a part of winning this championship for my Dad. He and my Mom have given Ricky and I all the opportunities any kids could ask for in the world. He works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen, and I’m happy we could do this together. He had great memories with Ricky in the car over the past few years, and I’m happy now that we could make some memories together.
Obviously, huge thanks to the whole WTR team, all the sponsors, Chevrolet, and of course, my fantastic teammate, Max. I couldn’t have picked a cooler guy to win my first championship with. This team won this championship; Max and I were just along for the ride.
Racing is my life. So winning this championship is more of a relief than anything else.
The fear of not succeeding in something that you love is terrifying. I only have three things in my life: racing, family, and some friends (in no particular order).
Those are the things that make me happy and that’s all that matters in life.