Well the 2018 season has finally started! It wasn't a very long "off-season" but any time not behind the wheel of a race car is a boring time. Our season kicked off at Road Atlanta on February 17-18. It was round one of the AER (American Endurance Racing) series and after a successful 2017 season we were eager to pickup where we left off.
Friday was a combination of practice and qualifying. All four of us drivers had driven this Casey Carden Motorsports Mazda Miata before, so we only needed a small handful of laps to get back up to speed for the new year.
Saturday started with the talk being rain. We knew it was coming but we didn't know when. I would be starting the race as I was comfortable in the wet stuff so volunteered. The issue was we would start on our dry tires as it wasn't raining like predicted yet. However, on the grid, the sky opened up and we started to get some rain.
We don't race on race tires in AER but we run the stickiest street tires we can get that meet the rules. Our "dry tires" while treaded just don't offer the grip as a more well rounded road tire would. I had experience on these at Daytona last year in the rain and was nervous to drive on them should we experience heavy rain.
The heavy rain eventually did come though. I stayed communicated with the team telling them it was super slippery but I offered to stay out knowing it would cost valuable time if we went into the pits to change to other tires, especially once it stopped raining where the "rain" tires would be slower. So I continued to turn laps, tip toeing around, and using everything I knew about wet driving. In the heavier downpours the car would slide a lot, including hydroplaning some on the back straight which isn't very comfortable.
I was asked if I could double stint meaning stay in for another fuel run so we didn't throw a new driver into these conditions. I agreed and ended up driving for three and a half hours straight. The good news was we also got the lead!
As we cycled through driver changes we went back and forth between positions. In the end we came across the line first on Saturday, with Adam Diamond bringing the car home. Needless to say it was an amazing way to start the season and we were ready for a nice evening of celebrating while keeping in mind we had a seven hour race the next day.
Sunday came and the sunshine decided to come out. Our teammate Adam Cornell was to start the car and run a double stint up until the quiet time Road Atlanta has on Sunday's. Then I would take over for a single stint after lunch. At the break we were in a good spot and I was eager to get out there in dry conditions.
My time came and I was on a mission at the restart. My goal was to turn fast laps, race hard, and get back up to the top. I had an absolute blast with some great small wheel to wheel battles and passing. An hour and a half stint felt very short compared to the day's prior and before I knew it I was handing the car over to Adam Diamond for his single stint before Hunter Cestoni would take us to the checkered flag.
At the end of the day, we gave it our all, but we just didn't have the lap time to catch up to the leader and we finished second in class. This was good enough for 1st overall in Class 1 though for the weekend so we were ecstatic.
It was a fantastic way to start the year with an overall win. I must give a huge thank you to my partners Joe's Hand Cleaner, Lemons of Love, and Honey Stinger. Additionally Casey Carden Motorsports did a great job as usual preparing the cars (they also won Class 2 overall!) and my teammates all drove a strong race.
We'll be back on track in April in New York.