Heading into the race at Virginia International Raceway, I was very excited to get back to doing what I love most and that's racing with the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Series Presented by Mazda. I was coming into the weekend with two great races under my belt finishing second and first in the first two races of the year. I was optimistic heading into the weekend looking to expand my points lead.
On Friday, going into the first practice I was going to try and get some fast laps in with the draft and try and do a qualifying simulation. After my first couple laps I was able to find a big pack to run with and get some fast drafting laps in. I ended up P1 when the session was over so I was happy going into qualifying. Qualifying was a very different story, however, and I was never able to time the draft right and I would end the session in fifth. We were a little bit disappointed at not being on pole, but we knew we could win from anywhere on the grid.
Saturday started off with qualifying for round 4 with the race coming right after it. I had a different plan going into this qualifying and knew I needed to time the draft better for a shot at the pole. I was able to work well with some other guys and I thought I had a lap good enough for the pole on my last lap but I was held up in the braking zone going into 14 by a big pack of cars. This lap ended up being slower than my previous lap which put me outside pole. It was not what we wanted but we were satisfied with a front row starting position.
On the first lap, there was a big crash involving Pat Daly and Greg Stelzoff. Pat's car launched off of Greg's car, sending him barrel-rolling down the front straight. Pat would escape the event with a minor concussion which, if you see the video, is amazing. Gerardo Bonilla, MHP (Skip Barber Racing School instructors), Greg Strelzoff, and the VIR safety staff all did an excellent job in making sure Pat was OK.
After the race was finally restarted, I quickly made my way from fifth to second on the first lap. I would lead the field the next two laps, but then contact with a fellow competitor would send me off the course where I would rejoin the race in 10th. That same lap there was a full-course yellow, allowing me to catch up to the back if the pack. I did not get the best of restarts and was only able to make up two spots before the race was ended two laps early due to another crash. It was a very crazy race and an eight place was not what we were looking for, but we knew we had another race tomorrow and hoped for better luck in the next race.
The next morning we had a lengthy drivers meeting and everyone was hoping for a cleaner and safer race. We were told that the Skip Barber mechanics had been there until 1:00 in the morning putting all the cars back together. These guys rock! Their dedication always allows us to get our races done.
I started the race from second position and stayed there for the opening laps. The race was much better and the draft played a key role in the race with the top six staying close together almost the entire race. On the last lap I had made my way into the lead but was drafted by two cars and passed headed into Turn 14. I finished the race in third and was satisfied with a podium finish.
Overall, the weekend was not what we were hoping for, but we were happy with the podium in the second race. It's a long season – I know we all hear drivers say this, but we have to take it race by race. I am looking forward to carrying the momentum into Lime Rock Park May 27-30, where we will be racing with the Grand-Am series. This is the last time we will race with another major racing association, and I hope I can perform well in front of the bigger crowds. I want to say thanks to all the Skip Barber instructors, mechanics, and all the staff at VIR for a great weekend of racing.