- 26 October 2015
After a phenomenal weekend in New Jersey last time out, I was looking for more of the same in Pittsburgh for the championship finale. In reality, I needed to have an even better weekend to have a shot at the championship.
Friday started off with an early morning session in cold, damp conditions. And by cold, I mean 40 degrees! We paced most of the session and finished with a strong 2nd. By the second session, the track had dried out and again, we went P2.
Qualifying occurred in similar conditions to the first practice session on Friday, making it tricky to put down a lap. I managed to get a really, really good draft lap in which had me on pole by about 1.5 seconds! However, other people started to get drafts and I ended up 2nd.
In the first race, I took the lead even before the green flag fell when the pole sitter spun on cold tires during the warm up lap. After the drop of the green flag, there was some dicing and I emerged unscathed in 3rd after the commotion. The three of us started to stretch a gap, so I just hung out in 3rd until I needed to make my move. I didn't want to race the guys in front of me too hard as that would just allow the 4th and 5th place duo behind us to catch up. I waited until the last two laps to make a serious challenge for the lead. I made my move for 2nd and on the last corner of the last lap, I attempted an outbraking move for the win. However, the leader tried to squeeze me off track and with no where for me to go, we made contact which shot me into the air. When I landed, the impact bent two corners of the car and I was unable to continue.
For Race 2, I didn't have a great starting position as I'd take the green flag in 7th. As we rolled out for our pace lap, something didn't seem quite right. When I tried to get some heat in the brakes, I would lock up the left front tire really easily. I moved some of the brake bias to the rear in hopes of solving the problem before we went green. I discovered rather quickly though that something else wasn't right as on the second lap, I had a massive lock up going into the turn 3's threshold brake zone. Modulating the brake pressure, I tired to control it but I realized I was going to ha to spin the car in an attempt to not collect anyone in front of me. I slipped to last and picked off a couple cars by the next lap. As I went into the brake zone for turn 3 for the second time at full speed, I again had the same issue. At this point, I was thinking either I had lost the ability to drive over night or we had some damage from the incident in Race 1. At this point, I really wasn't sure if I should stay out and try to salvage some points to maintain 2nd in the championship, or if I should come in and save the car. I made up my mind that I would do my best to drive around the issue and also try and see if I could feel anything that would point to a particular problem. Regardless, staying out ended up being the right decision as my challenger for 2nd ended up crashing out, so I made up the points gap I had lost on him from not finishing the day before.
As the final race of 2015 approached, so did the snow. Unfortunately, it didn't stick, as I thought it'd be pretty cool to race formula cars in the snow haha. We ended up going out on wet tires as the track was quite wet. I was again starting 8th which makes things really tough in the wet as you have to deal with the spray from the cars in front of you. And in racing, your visibility is super important. After a tough weekend already, I really wanted to finish the race and secure 2nd in the standings. If the opportunity to win was available, I would take it but I was't going to risk the car in treacherous conditions. I kept my nose clean throughout the race and brought that car in 2nd for a solid result to end the year.
We really needed another New Jersey weekend to even have a remote shot at the championship, but unfortunately Saturday's incident affected the rest of the weekend. I think it's easy to say after the fact that I maybe I shouldn't have tried the move, but my goal was to sweep the weekend. There was an outside factor that I couldn't control. However, I did learn some things I could do differently in a similar situation, which is all you can really ask for. I think it was a decent year, but the second half is where we really started to shine. I really have to thank Kris Kaiser at K-Hill Motorsports for giving me a shot, and also everyone who has followed and supported me!