Driver Spotlight: Erik Valdez
Driver, No. 88 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche Cayman
How did your first race go in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Daytona?
“I’m still kind of at a loss for words. Having been out of competitive motorsports for so long, to get back into something like this, I’ll be honest I’m not a person who gets really nervous in situations but I was a bit nervous. Seeing all the cars, all the fans, this is a different level than where I left racing. There’s also that sense of self-doubt since I’ve been away for ten years.
“We struggled getting the car set-up and had issues with qualifying so starting way back in P24 is good and bad. I looked at it as a positive. I was able to charge people as opposed to defend people and I prefer chasing and charging, it gives me something to go for.
“I gotta tell ya, in Turn 1, when you have 57 cars funneling down into this little hairpin and going into the infield, it was chaos. But in a very cool way. I was able to build my confidence back up and started to think about tire management and fuel management because when you go wheel-to-wheel with someone, you burn more fuel and use up your tires more. I went an hour and 20 minutes in my stint and went from 24th to P9 which was pretty cool.”
How do you prepare for a race when you’re juggling so many other things, such as your acting career?
“Fitness, it’s just trying to stay in shape. I’m in decent shape but I could be in better shape. An hour and a half in a car is no joke, people don’t realize the fitness level you need to be at to compete in something like this. Not just physical, but mental too. You’re out there in 140 degree temperature defending your position and the mental side is a chess game and not necessarily taking every opportunity to pass somebody if it’s not ideal.
“Now that I’ve been in the car and learned it a bit, the learning curve changes going to [the rest of the year]. Now I can focus on the circuit itself versus learning the car and the track. Watching in-car footage, etc.”
How helpful are other drivers while you are learning?
“It’s interesting with race drivers. They’re all really cool people and we all share the same passion. That said, you’ve got some drivers who aren’t quite as open and I get that from a competitive standpoint. I’m more of an open person myself but that doesn’t make them better or worse.
“There are a couple of people that helped me when I first got out here, Remo (Ruscitti), and Corey Lewis, Mark Pombo, Andy Lally was really willing to share some information and it doesn’t get any better than Andy Lally sharing information with you about Daytona. Those guys were all hugely helpful in terms of helping me understand data and watching video with me. It really helped me on race day at Daytona and I was able to come up through the field like I did.”
What is your most memorable road trip?
“There’s been a couple. It wasn’t a full-on road trip but my girlfriend and I went to Hawaii for the first time this last summer and we spent some time on Oahu for the first three days then Maui for the next seven days. We rented a Jeep in both places and instead of going to the touristy spots we took a mini road trip on an island. We went around both islands and stopped at some touristy spots then went to some places where the locals hang out.
“There are some places you go and there are no hotels, no fancy restaurants, it literally looks like shacks that have been built years and years ago that families live in which isn’t much but the backdrop is amazing. It looks like Jurassic Park or something.
“You have these huge volcanic mountains behind you then the ocean here (motions to his side) and then this 600 square foot shanty but they are some of the happiest people in the world because they don’t care about the material things. They appreciate what they have around them. I love cars and I love exploring so road trips are something I really like to do.”