Tuesday, August 5, 2014
It was GREAT to fly into Columbus, Ohio, home of The Ohio State Buckeyes and see the colors scarlet and grey e everywhere. What a weekend it was at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Thursday was a promoter test day for all teams which gave us 2 extra practices. I missed the first half of the first session because of electrical problems with my car. Just as we were about to pull out of the paddock and head to grid, the mechanics popped the hood and started cranking wrenches to replace a failed alternator. With about 15 minutes left, I left pit entry and headed down to Turn 2. It was a challenging remaining couple minutes as I tried to get my tire temps up, avoid GT cars at almost race pace, learn the track and also figure out how my car is handling and recommend changes to my crew.
The afternoon session was much better and my confidence grew with each lap. I was able to take the car deeper into turns, it was biting more, but the back end was still a bit loose. After a red flag (due to a couple cars that had spun off the track) and with 10 minutes left, I decided to go 85% since the car was oversteering pretty easy and focus on my entry and exit lines. Coming out of Turn 8 and into 9 the back end still kicked out. I caught it, got the car straight and tried to slow it, but the left 2 wheels were in the grass. I went straight off, through a gravel pit that is supposed to slow me down and kissed the tire wall bending a front left side “A” arm. I couldn’t believe it. To calm down, I walked back to the paddock from the opposite side of the track.
The crew wasted no time at all, replacing the couple parts and getting the car back in amazing shape. We were all set and ready for the Official SCCA practice on Friday afternoon when the electrical problems arose again, this time shutting off the car. After we replaced the battery, a new alternator, a new starter, rechecked the fuses and more. I got back on track able to get some more laps in.
Saturday morning, qualifying. I enjoy qualifying. There are fewer cars on the track, we are all relatively the same speed so you don’t have to worry about the incredible closing speeds of GT cars and you let it all hang out. We have 15 to 20 minutes to put the fastest lap time we can down. I usually get that time the later we go in the session. I find my rhythm, the tires are at their best and traffic has usually dissipated enough where you can be unaffected by anyone else. About half way through a red flag was thrown because a faster Aston Martin V8 literally rode up the back and over a slower Nissan 370Z. After the mess was cleaned up, we went back out to finish up and I was on my fastest lap yet by 1.5 seconds when I came into the Carousel and found fluids left behind by the Subaru WRX’s engine after it let go. It spun me backwards and into the grass on the outside. Luckily I was able to get the car stopped before it got near the wall. Unluckily it had me sitting right in front of a wave of cars that were speeding my direction! I had to shut my car down and then turn it back on to restart it as other race cars were losing grip then sliding by either side of me into the grass. I thought for sure I was going to get smacked. I was highly annoyed that my posted qualifying lap used, wasn’t my fastest I could have had. But, that's racing.
Saturday, race day! The cars were prepped and ready to go! Fans filled the stands and the announcers voice was booming over the loud speakers. Time to pull it all together for 50 minutes of “battle”. Formed up and rolling around the track on our parade lap I went to shift gears... and couldn’t! As the field made its way around the track I had to point cars by and hope i could make it back to the pits. I FINALLY forced it into 3rd gear and brought it around, informing my crew of the situation and to get ready for me. They jacked the car up, popped the hood, shut the car down, then restarted it. Somehow the shifter worked great. The green flag dropped, all the other cars took off and I exclaimed to let me go! The crew dropped the car, buttoned me up and I was gone. This could have very well been a blessing in disguise. As I raced to catch up, I noticed pieces and parts on the track. As I swerved to avoid them, I looked further up and saw Lamborghini on the side of the track stopped, a FSR in the grass and a Mustang stopped a little later. Continuing, 2 more Mustangs were badly damaged and off the track. (Video showed the Lambo getting sideways and a flurry of GTS cars trying to avoid it. In the fray, they hit each other. Had I stayed on track and not pitted, I would have been right in the MIDDLE of the action). Needless to say, full course caution ensued.
Once we restarted, the race continued without a hitch as the clouds kept getting darker and closer. Heavy rain drops started falling and soon the track was soaked. The racing line immediately shifted and speeds slowed down as we were all on slicks. As minutes ticked by, more and more cars went off. The resulting carnage was incredible. Before long the Officials initiated Full Course caution and the speeds came to a crawl. Even at 5-10 miles an hour cars were sliding off the track. We had wakes coming off our wheels and in some corners puddles formed. I saw a Mustang send up a wave of water higher than his car when he drove through it! It turned into survival mode. Eventually the Series threw a Red Flag and we all lined up on the front straight. The remaining 8 minutes of the race ticked by, the rain maintained its steady down pour so the checkered flag was thrown. What a race...
Sunday! What wonderful conditions we had. Partly cloudy, sun beaming through and temps that were enjoyable to watch a race. Qualifying positions were based upon drivers fastest lap from the race the day before. Being consistent with the weekend, my cars electrical reared its head once more and kept shutting off the car when the battery level dropped too low so I had to keep the engines RPM’s up the whole time. I am going to need a new clutch...
We all took off when the starting lights went out and immediately there was some bumping and grinding in front of me. A stalled GT car forced traffic to the outside resulting in teammate Andy Lee off to the right and grazing a wall. He drove through braking markers placed on the ground sending them flying in the air for us behind him to avoid. Recalling the destruction that happened during the beginning of Race #1, I decided to give the FSR, BMW, and Aston Martin V8 in front of me some breathing room as they traded paint all the way down to Turn 4. I was behind the FSR and knew that he was going to lose the battle if “weight” became an issue. Last thing I wanted was to T-bone him when he lost and ruin my race.
Unfortunately, giving that space enable a couple cars to pass me in the Turn. However, in the long run it helped me because 2 of the 3 cars banging each other didn’t finish, I ended up passing some that did, and my car didn’t have a scratch on it. I got into an enjoyable back and forth with a Nisan 370Z as I was on his bumper for several laps putting pressure on him. I reeled him in lap after lap until his back and my front bumper were almost touching. Then a wave of GT cars came by, spaced us out again, so I had to reel him in again. Not long after I made my way around him and pulled away to go chase down a Mustang.
Before long a full course caution was waved and we all packed up. This was good because they guy I had to hunt down was right in front of me. Bad, because now I was right in front of the guy chasing me. With 2 laps left the Mustang behind me passed me in a turn. I was annoyed with myself for not defending my line better.
Lots was learned this weekend and what a weekend it was. As important is that the cars is in one piece and headed back to the West Coast. Time to take it back to the shop and sort out the electrical issue. I can’t wait to go to Sonoma!
Monday, July 21, 2014
Pirelli World Challenge racing had its last street race of the season in Toronto!
I LOVE street races. The large number of fans, the energy, the vibe, the tall skyscrapers peering down on the track as our cars horsepower echoes through the city streets. There is nothing like it. The flip side to that coin is constantly changing track surfaces, sealant, street crowns, cement walls on either side and bumpy roads. The worst conditions for a race track. If the driver isn’t careful, and as Race 1 showed, this track can eat cars.
Race 1 had teammate Andy Lee in his #20 Camaro sitting P4 place while I qualified P14 in #40. On the start the GT and GTS field raced towards Turn 1 where the entrance is 54 feet wide... and the exit is 27. Immediately 2 GT Audi’s hit each other, spinning 1 of them and a traffic jam ensued. Lee, who had a great start jumping up to P1 hit the brakes, but ran out of real estate. His front left hit the tail end of a GT Viper and damaged it. He was able to limp to Turn 5 before the car just had enough. It was mayhem as all cars tried to stop in enough time but couldn’t. Two Aston Martins were damaged, Audi R8’s had carbon fiber smashed in, a KIA was sidelined, and a couple Mustangs pulled into the run off areas. Immediately we were under yellow. With my teammate out of the race, it was my job to get it done.
Race #2 was a new day. With Lee not being able to put a full lap in the day before, he had to start near the back with all the other crashed out cars from Race #1 and I started mid pack after my incident. The starter lights went out and we were green! We thundered down the cement canyon and all went smoothly. The Camaro’s have been battling a power issue this season with the series lobbying to get us a smaller size restrictor. Repeatedly we have watched Mustangs and KIA’s pull away from us on straights when we are flat out. I got behind a Mustang early and reeled him in through the turns, then watched as he pulled away on the straights. The whole race was this yo-yo event. Continuing to hit my marks and put pressure on him, he eventually slipped up and I was able to get around him.
The car came in clean, undamaged and good drivers points were earned. Now back to the United States and Mid-Ohio to begin a stretch of running on road courses.
Monday, June 23, 2014
On June 21, 2014 the Frog-X Parachute Team, sponsored by Shadow Works, jumped into the USS Iowa's parking lot in the port of Los Angeles, California. From 5,000 feet above the ground, 5 jumpers exited a Cessna 206 and descended upon the VETNET Working Wardrobes Charity Dinner, hosted by Harry and Catherine Humphries.
Jumpers JC Ledbetter (former SWCC) and Keith Pritchett (SEAL) performed a dynamic water landing into LA's harbor, feet from the watching crowd. Shortly after, landing along side the ship in the parking lot of Pier 2, Jumpers Nix White (former SEAL) flew in an 1100 sq. ft. American Flag, Marc Hogue (former Marine Force Recon) flew the VETNET Banner, and Larry Barbiero (former SEAL) flew in the "Support our Troops" banner.
See the video at http://youtu.be/G1YU5wurIG4
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
When we arrived, Detroit weather gave us a proper welcome with rain and flooded streets. On the way to our hotel, we saw a local, in a pick up truck, decide not to forge a flooded intersection in his pick up truck.Even though in a rental, we decided it was best not to either.
The next morning during load in, tractor trailers were getting stuck and digging ruts into the islands grassy areas. Big Caterpillar tractors had to be brought in to pull them out, while truck loads of wood chips were sprayed like water from a fire hose to help dry out the area.
Saturday morning was an early one, since qualification was slated for 7:05 in the morning. After it was over, Andy qualified 9th and I, 18th, a little over 1.5 secs behind. Less than 2 hours later, it was show time.
The race started off wonderfully for me. The lights went out, the pack sprinted forward and I had a jump on Eric Davis, who was in front of me. I pointed my nose to his right but decided not to go for it, because it would have been a gamble to get through him and the wall. I found my way behind Buzz McCall from GTS Sport and rode his tail for 2 laps before getting by him and pulling away.
I was following my friend, Andy Pilgrim, in his No.8 GT Cadillac CTSV-R during this time. I knew he was gone at the restart so I would try to hang with him as much as possible. With 5 minutes left in the race, the green flag flew.
Still behind Pilgrim we raced into Turn 7, I noticed a Dodge Viper in front of him. As we came into Turn 8, my eye caught a very slow white Aston Martin on the inside. I remember thinking, “that is a terrible place to stop.” As I made my turn in to Turn 8, a loud bang shook my body, another bang filled my ears and then a 3rd bang rang out as I now understood my car to be in the tires. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I do know the white Aston Martin crashed into me, and plowed me into the tire wall with 2 minutes left. 2 MINUTES! I was... not happy.
I was running 12th at the time and because of that, I finished 18th... Andy moved up 1 spot to 8th.
Sunday came around after the crew spent the better part of Saturday fixing my car. I have the best crew who loves their job and will give it their all. I am EXTREMELY thankful for each of them. They are some of the best guys I know. just after 0800 there was a warm up session for the Pirelli World Challenge cars and I wanted to shake down my car during that time. I only ran 6 laps. I wanted to save the car for the race, but make sure that it was functioning properly. I ran about 8/10th’s pace and was happy.
Race time came. On the outside wall this time, there was no where to go but straight forward. If someone ahead of me were to stall, it would be a traffic jam. The lights went out and everyone took off. Friend Nick Esayian did have a stall forcing Tom Landry to stay parked behind him. I got underway smoothly and was battling for position until the pack of cars started to string out. Laps 1 and 2 felt good as the tires heated up and the engine was purring.
Lap 3, everything changed. I was following the Tremec Camaro through Turns 1 and 2. My line was within the norm of what I had been running all weekend. As I started into Turn 2, the turn where a “jump” is in the middle of, I felt the front end of my car wobble. Maintaining throttle, the car compressed on the other side and I felt the back end of the car begin to want to travel around the front. I floored the gas pedal in hoops of squatting the back end down but physics was already in motion.
My car spun around backward and was headed for the concrete wall. My right rear quarter panel hit first, then the front right, and back to the rear again. I was at a loss. Teammate Andy Lee, had mechanical problems with his cars throttle body. It would stick open or closed at the most inopportune times. He couldn’t finish either.
It was a rough weekend all the way around. Detroit beat us up and spit us out. However, #20 and #40 in the Pirelli World Challenge Series don’t lay down. We will be back Detroit, and we will be gunning for you.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The Navy SEAL Legacy Foundation focuses support on education, funeral, health & wellness, living and quality of life expenses for the SEALs and their families. For more information about the foundation or if you want to donate to their cause, click here.
The morning came early for the jump team as we checked out of our rooms and loaded up the vehicle to head to the airport at 0500. After dropping off the jumpers the DZ crew headed to the Gold Club of Houston to set up the DZ. The designated jump time approached and with some deconfliction from Houston International, the jump team came over head at 5500 feet above ground level and the 5 jumpers exited the airplane one right after another.
The first 2 jumpers out performed CRW (Canopy Relative Work) making a bi-pl
ane formation with a 4x6 foot flag showing a trident waving in the wind off the lower jumper. The next 2 jumpers out of the plane immediately deployed their chutes and separately lowered the huge flags they were carrying. The Foundation provided a wonderful 600 sq. foot SEAL Legacy Foundation Flag to be flown, and it was accompanied by a 1100 sq. foot American Flag from the jump team. The 5th jumper, with a smaller chute on his back and a camera strapped to his head, flew around the others capturing aerial pictures of others.
After landing, we switched gears and showed our best golf game as we were paired with groups and entered into a scramble. A BIG thank you goes to the Foundation for all their hard work in making the event happen, for what they do for the SEAL Community and to those that came out to support the event and gave to the charitable cause.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
For the first time this year, the teams had an optional promoter test day for practice. Every team took advantage of the opportunity to put more laps down, and work to achieve the perfect set up on each car. As a driver, I very much appreciated the extra lap time. My previous experience here last year during Grand Am's Continental Tire Series race wasn't the best I could have asked for. With rain during every practice session, the track dried out for the race and the first 20 minutes was spent learning the track.
I brought last years knowledge and track notes to the race this year. With a few gear changes, the line was pretty much the same, so the bulk of practices was fine tuning my awesome Camaro's handling.
Qualification day came and with all the practice the teams have had, it was going to be an all or nothing run. With some mix up from the officials about which list was being used to line up the cars in pre-grid. I ended up having to run to meet my car in the pitts. I was standing next to my car, putting my helmet on, when an official in a panic, as if it was a last minute thought, told one of my crew to drive the car to my position. As I was walking down to meet the car in pre-grid, the officials blew the whistle, and all of the cars rolled onto pit lane. My crew chief and I had a conversation at the Officials trailer after making sure we didn't get docked points or fined for their mess up,
After earning my fastest time ion the track during qualifying, I still ended up 20th on the grid while Andy was sitting 4th. The Top 10 place holders were all within .8 seconds of one another. It was game on.
A clean race ensued for the remaining time of the 50 minutes and it was awesome. Andy finished 4th, and after getting railroaded and spun by a GT Audi R8 in the middle of Turn 8, I ended up 15th. I won't forget that car number or his name. We have many more races to run. Got to love multi-class racing...
Saturday, April 19, 2014
The second weekend of Pirelli World Challenge Racing was set in beautiful Long Beach, CA. Known as the “Roar By The Shore”, 20 GT and 20 GTS manufacture cars totaling more than 20 Million dollars would race through the streets showcasing themselves in the ultimate fashion.
Friday morning’s practice session tested both the drivers and crew. The #20 and #40 car, were giving both my teammate Andy Lee and I some hassle with the way they were handling. With roughly 10 minutes left in the practice session, the cabin of my car filled with smoke and my cars clutch decide to stick to the floor as I was flat out, racing down the front straight. I put the car in neutral so the engine didn’t blow and coasted to a stop in the run off by Turn 1. A late night by the crew was spent in the paddock dropping the transmission, disconnecting the drive shaft and replacing an OEM part that within the slave cylinder that failed.
Saturday arrived and the qualifying was that afternoon. The #20 car qualified in P8 while #40 qualified in P16 after what ended up being a grueling qualification round. I only did 6 of the Fields 8 laps because once again, the cabin of my car filled with smoke and the clutch stuck to the floor. After I got towed in to the paddock a 2nd time, I spoke in depth to my trusted crew members Dave Stevens and Tristan Brannon to find out what the hell was going on with the car. After a quick investigation it was found that a hose from the previous nights clutch repair was too close to the exhaust, burned through and the fluid went everywhere causing the smoke filled cabin. Not the qualifying round or position either of us drivers wanted, but then again Long Beach has never been nice to the BestIT team.
Sunday morning came quick. There was a 15 minute “warm-up” period for the PWC cars and both Andy and I were staged ready for it. Andy had been having a brake issue in qualification with his Crown7 / BestIT Camaro and wanted to check its status after some tweaks were made by the crew. I had to find out if the clutch was back working properly and I wanted to get more seat time on track.
The afternoon was gorgeous as temperatures hung in the mid 70’s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The Indy cars race had passed, the drifting expedition was over and the Stadium Super Trucks had done their exhibition. The Streets of Long Beach were all ours now.
After the safety crews picked up the pieces, hauled the cars off the track and cleaned up all the fluids. Yellow turned to green and the race was back on! Andy wonderfully wove his way back up to the Top 10 during the race and kept his car out of trouble earning him P7. I wove my way back up to P11, was starting to make my run to break into the Top 10 when I was called by race control to Pit and have my rear bumper removed. During my progress of moving up in the ranks, my back end swung out in Turn 5 making contact with a tire wall and damaging the rear end. At that point I knew Top 10 was out of the picture. I made my pit stop and watched the crew yank and jerk the rear end off to get me back racing. I was released by my team mate, and then told I had to come around again because the WC Official hadn’t given the thumbs up.
After I pitted a second time, I was just racing for points now, not place. I ended up 17th.
Congrats to my teammate Andy Lee for earning the “Clean Pass” Award!