“Racing is like a drug.”
It’s the very first line I used in our recent episode of ‘The Drive Within’ on MotorTrend TV.
My racing season started at Barber Motorsports Park on March 4-6, 2022, driving a brand new BMW GT4 M4 for Round 3 Racing in the World Racing League. I had one goal in mind: Win in the most competitive class, GTO. Because the GTO field mostly consists of high-end GT4 race cars, most every car will finish the race unless there is an unexpected mechanical, or driver error. Basically, there are some HEAVY hitters in that class.
I ran in the GTO class in 2021 in an older model Porsche Cayman, which was great for sprint races but simply wasn’t designed to run an endurance race twice in one weekend. As my team owner and teammate Brad McCall always said, “We would be leading the race in GTO in the Cayman for about four hours, then poof, there goes our race.”
I put in the work last season and did the best I could with the machinery we had. I wasn’t able to win in my designated car but earned a couple of victories in Round 3 Racing’s sister cars, so I knew I was capable.
This year, we went into the first race with the car, the drivers, the crew and the team to get that GTO victory.
I qualified P9 in a field of more than 30 cars for the season opener on Saturday, March 5, 2022. One thing I struggle with is staying calm before the start of a race. Even though I can focus well and drive fast, I get incredibly nervous sitting on the grid waiting for the warm-up laps.
For this race in particular – because I knew our potential – I was nervous and amped at the same time. The race started and I drove with focus, keeping the nose clean for the entire stint. I knew I had one job and that was to get the car up front. Luckily, the Cooper Tires are fantastic and allowed me to hand the car over to Brad in third place.
About an hour into Brad’s stint, bad luck struck. As he was about to pit, we ran out of fuel a few corners from the pit entrance, and just far enough away that we had to be towed. This put us a few laps down and took us out of podium contention. Despite being devastated, that ‘racing is like a drug’ feeling crept up and I couldn’t wait to try again on Sunday, this time with an additional teammate, Cole Loftsgard.
Cole took the first stint for Sunday’s race, starting in second place. Although it’s rare for me not to start, I loved watching the field of more than 70 cars take the first turn all at once.
Cole did a great job. He was able to maintain the P2 spot for his three-hour stint. The track requires a mandatory lunch break on Sundays and I took the wheel after that. Even though we were in an endurance race, my stint was a sprint from start to finish. I was able to put the car in the lead, with the second-place driver on my rear bumper the entire time. I’m actually good friends with him and, knowing what a great driver he is and that they had the exact same car, it was a stressful run.
To add to the pressure, it started raining on about half of the track. Letting up was not an option – and neither was crashing – so I drove to the limit and held the lead over the P2 car. It was a relief to hand the car back to Cole and catch my breath. We were in first place in our class, and overall.
Cole had the same dogfight to hold the lead, with the distance between cars fluctuating anywhere from four to 14 seconds. I was almost as nervous watching the timing and scoring as I was behind the wheel.
With ten minutes left in the race and still holding onto the lead, I couldn’t watch anymore. The combination of nerves and excitement were overwhelming. Luckily, my family was with me and got to celebrate the moment as Cole took the checkered flag in first place. Everyone in our pit box erupted in happy tears and celebration. We were beyond excited to put everything together and earn this win for the drivers, team and crew.
Winning a race in the GTO class is extremely difficult and if I’m being honest, I didn’t expect it on the first weekend of the season. I knew it would be hard, and that my goal for the year was a lofty one, so it made the experience even more incredible. Now, I get to back to the drawing board for setting this season’s goals and take it one step at a time.
I’m honored to be part of the Hagerty, Round 3 Racing team effort and grateful to have the help of many partners like Shift Up Now, Lafayette Travel, Bell Techlogix, Cooper Tires and others. Racing is like a drug and I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon.